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Chi Yuan graduated from the National Taiwan University in1959, and received his Masters of Science degree from the University of Florida in 1962, and his Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Michigan in 1966. He was a postdoctoral fellow with Professor C.C. Lin at MIT for three years, before taking his faculty post at the City College of New York in 1969. He attained full professorship at CCNY in 1981. From 1994-1996, Chi returned to Taiwan as Director of the newly found Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA). From 1997-2002, he was the recipient of an Outstanding Scholar Award, reserved for the most distinguished scientists employed in Taiwan. Chi retired from ASIAA in 2007, but continued to be active in his research during his two-year fight with brain cancer.
Chi Yuan made his greatest impact with his work on the density-wave theory for spiral arm structures in galaxies, with C.C. Lin and Frank Shu. His early work elucidated the observational tests of density-wave theory, and the effects of magnetic fields in galactic shocks. In the 1980s, Chi Yuan worked on spiral density waves in Saturn’s rings. In the past two decades, Chi Yuan concentrated on the problem of barred and spiral structures in the nuclei of galaxies, with their implications for fueling the central supermassive black holes. He also worked on the problem of the migration of giant extrasolar planets in their solar disks. These studies were made possible by his establishment of a program on computational fluid dynamics, which became one of the key initiatives in theory at the ASIAA. Among his academic records, two contributions are particularly notable. First, with Typhoon Lee, Fred Lo, and Frank Shu, Chi Yuan founded the ASIAA in order to stimulate the growth of astronomy in Taiwan. Second, and perhaps his greatest influence, has been his training and mentoring of a great number of students in astrophysics, especially for the last 20 years in Taiwan. Today, astronomy is flourishing in Taiwan, in no small measure because of his efforts.
Chi Yuan was also a scholar in Chinese history, well known for his calligraphy, and a passionate leader of the Tiao Yu Tai Islands movement in the early 1970s on the territorial integrity of China. He was a gourmand and a gourmet. He was a man of principle and integrity. He is greatly missed by his many friends and colleagues, both inside and outside of astronomy and physics.
Obituary written by: Paul Ho (Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics)
BAAS Citation: BAAS, 2011, 43, 024