Math pioneer Milnor wins Abel Prize

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John Milnor of Stony Brook University in New York has won Norway’s Abel Prize for “pioneering discoveries in topology, geometry and algebra.” The prestigious mathematics prize is awarded annually by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (Det Norske Videnskaps Akademi).

John Milnor has won this year's Abel Prize for outstanding work in mathematics. PHOTO: Abelprisen.no

The prize is named for the late Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel. The Norwegian government established the Niels Henrik Abel Memorial Fund in 2002 to award the prize for “outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics.”

The winners are selected by the Abel Committee, which consists of five internationally recognized mathematicians. This year they chose Milnor of the Institute for Mathematical Sciences at Stony Brook, because of his “profound ideas and fundamental discoveries” that the committee believes have “largely shaped the mathematical landscape of the second half of the 20th century.”

Milnor’s work, according to the committee, features “great research, profound insights, vivid imagination, striking surprises and extreme beauty.” Several mathematical concepts, results and conjectures are named after him, the academy wrote, and he has written “tremendously influential books,” which are “widely considered to be models of fine mathematical writing.”

Milnor, age 70, received the Fields Medal in 1962, when he was only 31 years old, for his work in differential topology. The New Jersey native and Princeton graduate also has received a long list of other math prizes over the years and is a member of the of the US, Russian and European Academy of Sciences.

The prize will be awarded in Oslo by King Harald V on May 24. It carries with it a cash award of NOK 6 million, around USD 1 million.

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