Academician Yan Jia’an Talks about Imagination, Intuition and Inspiration

On April 11, Academician Yan Jia’an from the Chinese Academy of Sciences gave a lecture about imagination, intuition and inspiration for learning to the teachers and students of the Tianjin University School of Mathematics.

Innovation is the key to scientific research, Professor Yan said, and the highest level of innovation was the burgeoning of new ideas and theories, such as the calculus created by Newton and Leibniz, the differential geometry created by Gauss and Riemann and the group theory created by Loo-Keng Hua.

When talking about how to innovate, Professor Yan said: “My personal experience is to have a long-term accumulation of knowledge, choose a good research subject that you are interested in, and maintain a strong desire to solve the problem.”

Taking Euler’s proposition of topology as an example, he emphasized that imagination was more important than knowledge in innovation, pointing out that there were many vivid examples of creating new theories through imagination in the history of mathematical development. On how to develop imagination, he proposed that imagination was closely related to one’s artistic accomplishments according to his own experience in scientific research topic selection and thesis writing.

In addition, Professor Yan believes that innovation needs intuition and inspiration, as well as an aesthetic sense and opportunities. Yan told students to cherish lofty ambitions and make difficult explorations.

By Zhao Shen from the School of Mathematics

Editors: Eva Yin & Doris Harrington