Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon formally awarded the country’s Abel Prize in Mathematics on Tuesday to Yakov G Sinai, widely regarded as one of the most influential mathematicians of the 20th century. Sinai is a professor at Princeton University in the US and at the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in Russia.
Sinai, age 78, won the Abel Prize for his “fundamental contributions to dynamical systems, ergodic theory and mathematical physics.” The prize carries a cash award of NOK 6 million (USD 1 million) and is awarded annually by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.
Sinai, born in Moscow in 1935, is the son of two microbiologists whose grandfather headed the Department of Differential Geometry at Moscow State University. Sinai clearly inherited mathematical and scientific skills, and is known for introducing the idea of dynamical billiards among other mathematical achievements during his long career. The Norwegian Academy lauded Sinai for his numerous groundbreaking results in the theory of dynamical systems, mathematical physics and probability theory.
He was being hailed this week not only by Norway’s royal family, with a reception at the Royal Palace on Tuesday just before the awards ceremony, but also with a traditional banquet Tuesday evening hosted by the Norwegian government at the historic Akershus Fortress and Castle in Oslo. Sinai, accompanied by his mathematician wife Elena B Vul, was also due to deliver a prize lecture at the University of Oslo on Wednesday and be the guest of honor at a reception at the Russian Embassy in Oslo.
On Thursday Sinai was due to travel to Stavanger to meet children at a science museum and deliver a lecture at the University of Stavanger. From there he was traveling on to Stockholm, where the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences organizes a seminar in honour of the Abel Prize Laureate, featuring yet another lecture by Sinai.
The Abel Prize was created by the Norwegian government and Academy to recognize “outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics.” The prize was named for Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, who died at the age of 26 in 1828. Sinai also laid a wreath at the Abel Monument on the grounds of the Royal Palace.
Crown Prince Haakon handed over the prestigious mathematics prize this year, since his father King Harald was in Trondheim for another official event tied to Norway’s bicentennial celebrations this month. The awards banquet Tuesday evening was being hosted by Norway’s Education Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen.