|13 May 1995 (aged 73)
New York City, New York, United States
|Willard Van Orman Quine
Hao Wang (Chinese: 王浩; pinyin: Wáng Hào; 20 May 1921 – 13 May 1995) was a Chinese-American logician, philosopher, mathematician, and commentator on Kurt Gödel.
Born in Jinan, Shandong, in the Republic of China (today in the People's Republic of China), Wang received his early education in China. He obtained a BSc degree in mathematics from the National Southwestern Associated University in 1943 and an M.A. in Philosophy from Tsinghua University in 1945, where his teachers included Feng Youlan and Jin Yuelin, after which he moved to the United States for further graduate studies. He studied logic under W.V. Quine at Harvard University, culminating in a Ph.D. in 1948. He was appointed to an assistant professorship at Harvard the same year.
During the early 1950s, Wang studied with Paul Bernays in Zürich. In 1956, he was appointed Reader in the Philosophy of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. In 1959, Wang wrote on an IBM 704 computer a program that in only 9 minutes mechanically proved several hundred mathematical logic theorems in Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica. In 1961, he was appointed Gordon McKay Professor of Mathematical Logic and Applied Mathematics at Harvard. From 1967 until 1991, he headed the logic research group at Rockefeller University in New York City, where he was professor of logic. In 1972, Wang joined in a group of Chinese American scientists led by Chih-Kung Jen as the first such delegation from the U.S. to the People's Republic of China.
One of Wang's most important contributions was the Wang tile. He showed that any Turing machine can be turned into a set of Wang tiles. The domino problem is to find an algorithm that uses a set of Wang tiles to tile the plane. The first noted example of aperiodic tiling is a set of Wang tiles, whose nonexistence Wang had once conjectured, discovered by his student Robert Berger in 1966. Wang also had a significant influence on theory of computational complexity.
A philosopher in his own right, Wang also developed a penetrating interpretation of Ludwig Wittgenstein's later philosophy of mathematics, which he called "anthropologism." Later he broadened this reading in the foundations of mathematics. He chronicled Kurt Gödel's philosophical ideas and authored several books on the subject, thereby providing contemporary scholars many insights elucidating Gödel's later philosophical thought. He saw his own philosophy of "substantial factualism" as a middle ground that includes both abstract theoretical formulations and the ordinary language of everyday discourse.
In 1983 he was presented with the first Milestone Prize for Automated Theorem-Proving, sponsored by the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence.