Thangai Veera Si. Annan
The Abel Prize is an international prize presented annually by the King of Norway to one or more outstanding mathematicians. The Abel Prize, named after great Norwegian mathematical genius Niels Henrik Abel (1802-1829), is given in recognition of outstanding contributions to mathematical sciences and has been awarded annually since 2003.
Abel, who died at the age of 26, has often been compared with the Indian mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan. The Prize was established in 2001 as part of Abel’s 200th birth anniversary. It carries a cash award of 6 million Norwegian Kroner (NOK), equivalent to €750,000 (about U.S$ 1 million), and is comparable in prestige, value and eligibility criterion to the Nobel Prize, which, does not cover mathematics.
It has often been described as the “mathematician’s Nobel prize” and is among the most prestigious awards in mathematics. It comes with a monetary award of six million kroner, (about 750,000 Euro) which is approx. (2012) 1.06 million US dollars.
The winning candidate is selected on the basis of the recommendation of an international committee of outstanding mathematicians chaired by a Norwegian. The current committee is headed by Ragni Piene, Professor at the University of Oslo and includes M.S. Raghunathan, formerly of the Tata Institute of Fundamental research (TIFR) and currently at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B), in Mumbai.
The International Mathematical Union and the European Mathematical Society nominate members of the Abel Committee. The amount of money that comes with the prize is usually close to US$ 1 million, similar to the Nobel Prizes, which are awarded in Sweden and Norway and do not have a category for mathematics. Norway gave the prize an initial funding of NOK 200,000,000 (about US$23,000,000) in 2001. The prize is an attempt at creating publicity for mathematics, making the discipline more prestigious, especially for young people.
The prize board has also established an Abel symposium, administered by the Norwegian Mathematical Society.
The award ceremony takes place in the Atrium of the University of Oslo Faculty of Law, where the Nobel Peace Prize was formerly awarded (1947–1989).
2012 Abel Prize
The winner of the prestigious Abel Prize of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for the year 2012 is 72-year-old Hungarian mathematician Endre Szemerédi of the Alfréd Rényi Institute of Mathematics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, and Department of Computer Science, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in the United States.
Szemerédi’s highly influential work has proved to be a game-changer in many areas of mathematics.
The announcement was made by the President of the Norwegian Academy in Oslo on 20.03.2012 and the award is being given “for his fundamental contributions to discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science, and in recognition of the profound and lasting impact of these contributions on additive number theory and ergodic theory.”
Szemerédi has been described as a mathematician with exceptional research power and his influence in diverse areas of present-day mathematics has been enormous. The festschrift volume, titled An Irregular Mind, published on his 70th birthday, ascribes his unique way of thinking and extraordinary mathematical vision as perhaps due to his brain being wired differently — “an irregular mind” — than most mathematicians.
Discrete mathematics is the study of structures such as graphs, sequences, permutations and geometric configurations and it is the mathematics of such structures that forms the foundation of theoretical computer science and information theory. For example, the tools of graph theory can be used to analyse communication networks such as the Internet. Similarly, the designing of efficient computational algorithms relies crucially on insights from discrete mathematics.
Szemerédi, says the citation, “has revolutionized discrete mathematics by introducing ingenious and novel techniques, and by solving many fundamental problems”. His work has brought combinatorics to the centre-stage of mathematics by bringing to bear its application in many areas of mathematics such as additive number theory, ‘ergodic’ theory, theoretical computer science and ‘incidence’ geometry.
The Abel Committee has noted that Szemerédi’s approach belongs to the strong Hungarian problem-solving tradition exemplified by mathematicians such as George Pólya and yet the theoretical impact of his work has been enormous.
Interestingly, Szemerédi entered mathematics somewhat late. He attended medical school for a year and worked in a factory before switching to mathematics. His extraordinary mathematical talent was discovered when he was a young student in Budapest by his mentor, famous Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdõs. He studied at the Eõtvõs Loránd University in Budapest and obtained his Ph.D. in 1970 under Israel M. Gelfand at Moscow State University.
Szemerédi proved several fundamental theorems of tremendous importance. Many of his results have opened up new avenues in mathematics and form the basis for future research. He first attracted international attention in 1976 with his solution of what is known as the Erdõs-Turan Conjecture. In its proof, Szemerédi had used a masterpiece of combinatorial reasoning, which was immediately recognised to have exceptional depth and power. A key step in the proof, now known as the Szemerédi Regularity Lemma, is used for classification of large graphs.
Many of Szemerédi’s discoveries that have had great impact on discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science carry his name. Examples in discrete mathematics include the Szemerédi-Trotter Theorem, the Ajtai-Komlós-Szemerédi semi-random method, the Erdõs-Szemerédi sum-product theorem, and the Balog-Szemerédi-Gowers Lemma. Examples in theoretical computer science include the Ajtai-Komlós-Szemerédi sorting network, the Fredman-Komlós-Szemerédi hashing scheme and the Paul-Pippenger-Szemerédi-Trotter theorem.
Abel Laureates 2003 – 2012
||Collège de France
||“for playing a key role in shaping the modern form of many parts of mathematics, including topology, algebraic geometry and number theory”
||Michael F. Atiyah
Isadore M. Singer
|University of Edinburgh
|“for their discovery and proof of the index theorem, bringing together topology, geometry and analysis, and their outstanding role in building new bridges between mathematics and theoretical physics”
||Peter D. Lax
||Courant Institute, NYU
||“for his groundbreaking contributions to the theory and application of partial differential equations and to the computation of their solutions”
||Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan
||“for his profound and seminal contributions to harmonic analysis and the theory of smooth dynamical systems”
||S. R. Srinivasa Varadhan
||Courant Institute, NYU
||“for his fundamental contributions to probability theory and in particular for creating a unified theory of large deviation”
||John G. Thompson
|University of Florida
Collège de France
|“for their profound achievements in algebra and in particular for shaping modern group theory”
Courant Institute, NYU
|“for his revolutionary contributions to geometry”
||John T. Tate
||“for his vast and lasting impact on the theory of numbers”
||Stony Brook University
||“for pioneering discoveries in topology, geometry, and algebra”
||Alfréd Rényi Institute
and Rutgers University
|“for his fundamental contributions to discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science, and in recognition of the profound and lasting impact of these contributions on additive number theory and ergodic theory”
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