Shiing-Shen Chern was a towering figure in mathematics, both for his contributions to differential geometry and as a source of inspiration and encouragement for all mathematicians, and particularly those in China. Born in the final year of the Qing dynasty, and educated at a time when China was only beginning to set up Western-style universities, he lived to preside over the 2002 International Congress of Mathematicians in Beijing. He was a co-founder of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley and its first Director in 1981; he also set up the Nankai Institute for Mathematics in 1985. His contributions to differential geometry were of foundational importance for the global viewpoint that developed in the postwar years, and the mathematical tools he introduced are now the common currency in geometry, topology and even aspects of theoretical physics.
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