Canadian mathematician Robert P Langlands plans to donate the NOK 6 million he’s receiving as this year’s winner of the Abel Prize, set up by the Norwegian Parliament to honour outstanding mathematical work and research. Langlands, a professor at Princeton University in the US, won the prize for “his visionary program connecting representation theory to number theory.”
Langlands, born in British Columbia in 1936, has decided to donate his winnings (equivalent to USD 750,000) to worthy causes and support both instruction in mathematics at several institutions and the indigenous peoples of his native Canada.
He received the Abel Prize for 2018 this week from King Harald V in the University of Oslo’s ceremonial hall downtown known as the Aula, which features several large murals painted by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. He also was the guest of honour at a banquet at the Oslo City Hall, which featured speeches by another prominent mathematician, Caroline Series, a professor a the University of Warwick, and Norway’s government minister in charge of higher education and research, Iselin Nybø.
It certainly wasn’t the first time Langlands, who studied himself at the University of British Columbia and Yale University, had received an award. He’s won several prizes in recognition of what colleagues call his outstanding contributions and mathematical insight. His “Langlands Program” is, according to the Abel Prize organizers, “frequently described as a grand unified theory of mathematics.”
Langlands, in line with Abel Prize tradition, also delivered a prize lecture at the University of Oslo. He’s been called “one of the most distinguished mathematicians alive today, and a towering figure in the history of modern mathematics” by Kenneth A Ribet of the University of California at Berkeley, who also leads the American Mathematical Society.
The Abel Prize, established by the Norwegian government in 2002, is awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters every May in honor of Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel. It’s meant to recognize contributions to the field of mathematics that are of “extraordinary depth and influence.”