April 17, 2013

Institute Professor Wins $1 Million Math Prize

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has awarded the 2013 Abel Prize to Pierre Deligne, professor emeritus in the school of mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Prof. Deligne was cited by the Abel Committee for his “seminal contributions to algebraic geometry and for their transformative impact on number theory, representation theory and related fields.”

“Deligne’s focus extends beyond establishing fundamental mathematical truths; he seeks to understand why they are inevitable,” noted Peter Sarnak, professor in the school of mathematics at the Institute. “In his work, this is often achieved by brilliant abstract reasoning, after which the result becomes clear and conceptual. Deligne is responsible for many of the standard tools in modern algebraic geometry, and a range of striking theorems, theories, mathematical objects and constructions bear his name.”

Institute Director Robbert Dijkgraaf added, “We are extremely pleased that Pierre’s work is being acknowledged by the Abel Prize. His keen insight and total dedication as a mathematician are matched only by his great mentorship and generous spirit, which has inspired generations of researchers here at the Institute and around the world.”

The Abel Prize acknowledges outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics and comes with a monetary award of approximately one million U.S. dollars. The prize will be given to Prof. Deligne by H.M. King Harald at an award ceremony in Oslo on May 21. Since the Abel Prize was first bestowed in 2003, 10 of the 11 recipients have been affiliated with the Institute as Faculty or Members.

Among Prof. Deligne’s seminal contributions are his proof of the Riemann Hypothesis for varieties over finite fields (also known as the Weil Conjectures, named for André Weil, Professor at the Institute from 1958 until 1998), the proof of the Ramanujan Conjecture in the theory of modular forms and a proof of a vast generalization of Hilbert’s 21st problem concerning linear differential equations and monodromy groups. He introduced the idea of “weights” in Hodge theory, a powerful proof technique and a useful conceptual tool. Prof. Deligne has made significant contributions to representation theory, number theory and automorphic forms. Quantum Fields and Strings: A Course for Mathematicians (1999), edited by Deligne and others, presented material from the collaborative mathematics and physics seminars held at the Institute in 1996–97, and has become the standard source for mathematicians on this topic.

Prof. Deligne was born in 1944 in Etterbeek, Brussels, in Belgium, and he pursued mathematics from a young age. In 1972, he earned his Doctorat d’État ès Sciences Mathématiques from Université Paris-Sud 11. He was a Member at the Institute before being appointed to the Faculty in 1984.

In 2006, Prof. Deligne was honored by King Albert II of Belgium, who made him a Viscount. The Belgian post office also issued a postage stamp in honor of his achievements in fundamental mathematics.