Andrew Chi-Chih YaoComputer ScientistAdvanced Technology

Image of the research

How can we perform
cooperative computation
while maintaining privacy?

Pioneering Contributions to a New Theory of Computation and Communication and a Fundamental Theory for Its Security

Andrew Chi-Chih Yao/ Computer Scientist

Andrew Chi-Chih Yao created new trends in computer science and made a great contribution to cutting-edge research in various areas, especially in security, secure computing, and quantum computation through establishing innovative fundamental theories for computation and communication. His achievements are continuing to influence current real-world problems such as security, secure computing, and big data processing.


  • #Randomized and deterministic algorithms
  • #Communication complexity
  • #Secure multi-party computation


Commemorative Lecture

A Journey Through Computer Science

In this lecture, I would like to give a brief account of my journey through computer science. It is the story of a young physicist in the 1970s who, like Alice in Wonderland, stumbled into the world of computer science by chance and started a long magical journey thereafter.

I was born in Shanghai, China in 1946; later my family moved to Hong Kong, then Taiwan. My upbringing carries the traditional Chinese value and adores scholarship and culture. As a kid I loved math, science and history. Science, like history, gave me a sense of awe and magnificence with its stories of adventure, brilliance and courage. I dreamed that this would also be my destiny!

After obtaining a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard in 1972, I by chance came across the then “novel” subject of computer science. Feeling an instant attraction, I decided to switch fields and obtained a second degree.

My research initially focused on solving open problems in algorithms such as minimum spanning tree, B-trees, etc. I gravitated toward developing new computing frameworks and theories after 1975. The research typically starts out by framing a question that interests me intensely. Indeed, I have come to believe that asking the right question is often the key to good research.

I will give a synopsis of some of my work by discussing three topics: Minmax complexity, Communication complexity and Multi-party secure computation. I will also say a brief word about quantum computing, auction theory and AI. It is gratifying that these works have apparently stood the test of time: they are seeing continued strong research interest today and, in some cases, even having practical impact.

No doubt, the diverse and colorful subjects mentioned above reflect the blossoming of Information Science over the last 50 years, and its growing interdisciplinary connections today.

To sum up, I have had a wonderful journey in computer science with many twists and turns! Along the way, I have encountered many extraordinary talents, and made good friends. I am especially fortunate to have had two inspiring mentors, Prof. Glashow and Prof. Knuth. Scientific giants aside, they are also the kindest and most gracious human beings ever!

In science, the paradigm is the search for truth. In this process, we sometimes discover patterns and beauty which can lift the human spirit. It also leads to innovations that can improve human conditions and prepare us for future human challenges.
Andrew Chi-Chih Yao

Andrew Chi-Chih Yao/ Computer Scientist


  • 1946Born in Shanghai, China
  • 1972Ph.D. in Physics, Harvard University
  • 1975Ph.D. in Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 1975-1976Assistant Professor, Mathematics Department, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 1976-1981Assistant Professor, Computer Science Department, Stanford University
  • 1981-1982Professor, Computer Science Division, University of California, Berkeley
  • 1982-1986Professor, Computer Science Department, Stanford University
  • 1986-2004Professor, Computer Science Department, Princeton University
  • 2004-Professor, Center for Advanced Study (currently Institute for Advanced Study), Tsinghua University
  • 2005-Distinguished Professor-At-Large, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • 2011-Dean, Institute for Interdisciplinary Information Sciences, Tsinghua University
Selected Awards and Honors
  • 1987George Polya Prize
  • 1996Donald E. Knuth Prize
  • 2000ACM A. M. Turing Award
  • MembershipsAcademia Sinica, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association for Computing Machinery, Chinese Academy of Sciences, International Association for Cryptologic Research, National Academy of Sciences

Profile is at the time of the award.

Kyoto Prize website