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Abel Prize

Mikhael Gromov

Mikhael Gromov

Monday brought not just an article on Grape Nuts (in the WSJ, discussed in my previous post), but also an article on mathematicians. And that’s rare. The NYT, in its New York region section, discussed the awarding of the 2009 Abel Prize to Mikhael Gromov in Oslo last month, focusing on the fact that three of the seven prizes awarded so far have been to mathematicians at NYU.

The Abel Prizes were established with funding by the Norwegian government in 2001 to honor the great Norwegian mathematician Niels Abel of the early nineteenth century and to serve as a counterpart to Nobel Prizes in other fields. Jean-Pierre Serre received the inaugural prize in 2003. Of course, there are also the Fields Medals, awarded to two to four mathematicians every four years at the International Congress of Mathematicians, going back to 1936 (with a break after that until 1950 because of the war and a lack of congresses). These have long considered by mathematicians to be our counterpart to the Nobel Prize, but the Abel Prize is more like the Nobel in its being given annually in Scandinavia. Indeed, according to the history of the Abel Prize given at their site, the idea for a math prize that would parallel the Nobel Prizes and be named after Abel goes back to 1899, when it was championed by that other great Norwegian mathematician, Sophus Lie.

I could go on about this, but mostly I’m writing a post on the subject because I can. When the NYT pays attention to mathematics, I don’t want to let the moment go unobserved. I’ll just add that the work of Abel and Lie has played a large part in my own mathematical life.

Categories: Math
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