US math legend wins Abel Prize

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John Torrence Tate of the University of Texas at Austin was awarded the Abel Prize for 2010 on Wednesday, for “his vast and lasting impact on the theory of numbers.” Tate was hailed for doing “path-breaking work” that has greatly influenced modern mathematics.

Professor John Torrence Tate, winner of the Abel Prize for 2010. PHOTO: Fondville

The Abel Prize is awarded annually by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and often is called “The Nobel Prize” of mathematics. It’s named for the Norwegian mathematician Nils Henrik Abel and the winner is selected by the Abel Committee, composed of five internationally recognized mathematicians.

Tate, 84, taught at Harvard College for 36 years and only recently retired as a professor at the University of Texas. He will formally be awarded the prize on May 25, by King Harald V, at a ceremony in Oslo. The prize recognizes “contributions of extraordinary depth and influence to the mathematical sciences,” and carries a cash award of NOK 6 million (about USD 1 million).

The Norwegian Academy said Tate’s accomplishments span six decades. “A wealth of essential mathematical ideas and constructions were initiated by Tate and later were named after him,” the Academy wrote, such as “the Tate module, Tate curve, Tate cycle” and Hodge-Tate decompositions,” to name a few.

“Many of the major lines of research in algebraic number theory and arithmetic geometry are only possible because of the incisive contributions and illuminating insights of John Tate,” wrote the Abel Committee. “He has truly left a conspicuous imprint on modern mathematics.”

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