Ai-ting Tobey Yu earned his undergraduate degree from MIT before attending Lehigh University for his Ph.D. which he received in 1949.
Yu's first major undertaking was to transform the Atacama Desert in Chile into a state-of-the-art mining and shipping operation. The company formed, Compania Minera Santa Fe, built its own railroad, mechanized loading ports, and ships to transport the magnetite mined in the desert to major steel plants around the world. Yu then formed ORBA Corporation, a minerals-handling and transport company that quickly became a giant in the industry. Through ORBA Corp, Yu converted the Great Lakes into an efficient waterway with automated docks and self-unloaders for shipping ore and coal. The company continued to modernize major coal and ore shipping routes for the next ten years.