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Thursday, March 27, 2008

French and US Mathematicians Share Abel Prize

Thompson & TitsJohn Griggs Thompson and Jacques Tits (Photo credit: Renate Schmid of Oberwolfach Photo Collection & Jean-François Dars of CNRS Images)

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has decided to award the Abel Prize for 2008 to John Griggs Thompson, University of Florida and Jacques Tits, Collège de France. The Abel prize is known popularly as the "Nobel Prize for mathematics". Thompson, 75, and Tits, 77, share the prize worth 6 million kroner (1.2 million dollars).

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters cited their "profound achievements in algebra and in particular for shaping modern group theory." Group theory is the "science of symmetries," the academy said citing examples like "the relation between reflections and rotations of a icosahedron, to reveal the secrets of (the) Rubik's cube."

Thompson revolutionized the theory of finite groups by proving extraordinarily deep theorems that laid the foundation for the complete classification of finite simple groups. Tits created a new and highly influential vision of groups as geometric objects. The Abel committee says: “The achievements of John Thompson and of Jacques Tits are of extraordinary depth and influence. They complement each other and together form the backbone of modern group theory”.

The Abel Prize was created in 2002 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Niels Henrik Abel. The Norwegian is acknowledged as one of the great names in mathematics although he died only aged 26. The prize was first awarded in 2003. King Harald is scheduled to present this year's award at a ceremony in Oslo on May 20.

Former winners include Srinivasa S R Varadhan, Lennart Carleson, Peter D Lax, Sir Michael Francis Atiyah, Isadore M Singer and Jean- Pierre Serre.

See our past postings on Abel laureates.

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