On September 13, 2017, the conference hall of the administration building of Peiyang Park Campus was crowded with students and the sound of enthusiastic applause. Chen Yongchuan, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Science and Director of the Center for Applied Mathematics of Tianjin University, was giving the first class to freshmen of 2017 ‘the heaven, earth and humanity of mathematics’. It was also the first class of the mathematic lecture series given by the School of Mathematics at Peiyang Park Campus.
“Mathematics of Tianjin University is the common spiritual home with the common ideal pursuit for all of us, and the School of Mathematics is indeed a big family”, were Chen’s opening remarks, so bringing Chen more closely connected with all the students.
During the speech, Chen used “Li Shanlan Identity”, which was called the Identity of China, in which mathematic nouns such as “function” and “calculus” were translated by Li as a clue, and then humorously leading into the famous people and events in the history of mathematics. He had students interested in all that he had to say, from the mathematician Li Shanlan of Qing Dynasty, who commented on western mathematics as “making instruments precise; calculating smart results”, to Xu Guangqi of the Ming Dynasty and the Italian Matteo Ricci who jointly translated Euclid’s Elements; from the Emperor Kangxi who translated terms like “element”, “times” and “root”, to Zeng Jihong, the second son of Zeng Guofan，who was not the typical son to a father who was in charge and had an even greater ability than any academician; and events like a new solution to the cubic equation and the paper that Bill Gates delivered at college.
Then followed Chen showing some students’ achievements from the Center for Applied Mathematics at Tianjin University, such as the picture joint algorithm of the panoramic technique used in front cameras of smart phones which was developed together with Huawei Technologies Company and the face recognition technology that Tianjin University developed with Opzoon Technology that can distinguish twins, and typecast actors regardless of ages. All the students were amazed.
“Mathematics is beautiful because it's all about truth, like the motto of Tianjin University -- Seeking Truth from Facts. The mathematical theorem is truth in the mathematics world, where people can tell only the truth. Mathematics is beautiful also because it's concise and profound. There are no assumptions in mathematics, and everything would be in vain without truth” Chen Yongchuan said. Moreover, TJU paid great attention to mathematics and had created academic environment for students. He encouraged students to study hard and wished them a great future: “Students are meant to study for life and spend their life studying”. He also encouraged students to check their smart phones less and to read more, to tap on the keyboard less and to write more, to intrigue less and to work more, to be disturbed less and to be more calm. He also quoted academician Ge Molin: “You can cultivate life more when doing mathematics than when gossiping. The writing mirrors the writer; the mathematics also mirrors the mathematician”. And the mathematician should integrate lofty ideals into their research, for only persistence can lead us to the top of mathematics.
Chen concluded with some of the values and morals of mathematicians, especially being punctual and concise. His tutor Gian-Carlo Rota of MIT, a member of the American National Academy of Sciences, always reminded his colleagues and students that teachers should never delay their classes.
He said some students worried about their progress for there was too much to learn, while others had masses of confusion regarding study and did not know how to cope with it all. Chen Yongchuan answered their questions one by one and encouraged them, in the words of Mr. Chen Xingshen who said: “We should always learn classic and excellent mathematics. Being confused means facing challenges, and it’s rather common. Teachers are meant to solve problems for students. Chinese students dislike asking questions, and that is also my greatest concern. No confusion means no gain. There is a teleplay in America called Growing Pains, and the lyric of a song called ‘Longing” says that our lives get their meaning through confusion. Confusion is everywhere, in our students’ lives and in the research. It hones our willingness and motivates our imaginations. All the confusion will turn into wonderful memories ultimately.”
Chen ended the speech with the words: “It is our common fortune to be destined to be connected with mathematics. I believe mathematics can make our lives much merrier. Though the first class is over, I hope all students are eager to learn more in the future”.
The mathematic lecture series are hosted by Sun Xiaotao, Dean of School of Mathematics, and all the freshmen of 2017 and teacher delegates attended the first lecture.
In his speech, Sun Xiaotao proposed that: “The path of life should be set straight at the beginning.” It’s rather important for students to set out on the correct path of learning and to pick a target to fight for at the very beginning. For them to meet a renowned expert like Chen Yongchuan at this stage of their study life would be significantly influential. The School of Mathematics will pass on this tradition, and will make it one of the greatest principles that the School of mathematics provides a good education and promotes the level of this discipline. He also hoped that the mathematics lecture series at Peiyang Park Campus would provide a platform to guide those who would like to pursue research in mathematics and provide chances to meet experts in mathematics face to face.
He let it be known that more famous scientists will be invited to the mathematic lecture series at Peiyang Park Campus by the School of Mathematics. He hoped the lecture series at Peiyang Park Campus will also provide in-depth communication with students and teachers, in order to make it one of the brand activities of the School.