Shape of a Life
Shing-Tung Yau, Steve Nadis

Book cover image

Narrated By: Arthur Morey

Duration: 12 hours and 59 minutes

What to expect

A Fields medalist recounts his lifelong transnational effort to uncover the geometric shapethe Calabi-Yau manifoldthat may store the hidden dimensions of our universe.

Harvard geometer and Fields medalist Shing-Tung Yau has provided a mathematical foundation for string theory, offered new insights into black holes, and mathematically demonstrated the stability of our universe. In this autobiography, Yau reflects on his improbable journey to becoming one of the world’s most distinguished mathematicians. Beginning with an impoverished childhood in China and Hong Kong, Yau takes readers through his doctoral studies at Berkeley during the height of the Vietnam War protests, his Fields Medal–winning proof of the Calabi conjecture, his return to China, and his pioneering work in geometric analysis. This new branch of geometry, which Yau built up with his friends and colleagues, has paved the way for solutions to several important and previously intransigent problems. With complicated ideas explained for a broad audience, this book offers listeners not only insights into the life of an eminent mathematician, but also an accessible way to understand advanced and highly abstract concepts in mathematics and theoretical physics.


Biography: science, technology and medicine, Quantum physics (quantum mechanics and quantum field theory), Mathematical physics, Non-Euclidean geometry

Listen to a sample

“An unexpectedly intimate look into a highly accomplished man…the development of a new field of geometric analysis, and a glimpse into a truly uncommon mind.”

Boston Globe

“Fascinating, and an essential read for anyone interested in the history of modern mathematics.”

Peter Woit, author of Not Even Wrong

“Inspires us all with humankind’s irrepressible spirit of discovery.”

Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe

“Candid, deep, and truly inspiring, The Shape of a Life is studded with unexpected insights into Yau’s thinking. An extraordinary story about an extraordinary person.”

Gish Jen, author of The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap

“This book tells a fascinating story of a life lived between multiple cultures—China and the West, and mathematics and physics. Yau’s journey from poverty in Hong Kong to the top levels of the mathematics world was not a simple one.”