Chinese-born American physicist who, with Chen Ning Yang, received
the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1957 for work in discovering violations
of the principle of parity conservation (the quality of space reflection
symmetry of subatomic particle interactions), thus bringing about major
refinements in particle-physics theory.
In 1956 Lee and Yang concluded that the theta-meson and tau-meson, previously thought to be different because they decay by modes of differing parity, are in fact the same particle (now called the K-meson). Because the law of parity conservation prohibits a single particle from having decay modes exhibiting opposite parity, the only possible conclusion was that for weak interactions, at least, parity is not conserved. They suggested experiments to test their hypothesis, and in 1957 Wu Chien-hsiung, working at Columbia University, experimentally confirmed their theoretical conclusions. (See also CP violation.)
In 1960 Lee was appointed professor of physics at the Institute for
Advanced Study, and three years later he returned to Columbia to assume
the first Enrico Fermi professorship in physics. From 1964 he made important
contributions to the explanation of the violations of time-reversal
invariance, which occur during certain weak interactions.
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