The most famous prize in mathematics is the Fields Medal, which we already discussed in an earlier post. Part of what makes it famous is it’s sometimes considered the “Nobel Prize” of mathematics. And it doesn’t hurt that there are persistant unfounded rumours that there is no Nobel Prize in mathematics because a mathematician had an affair with Nobel’s wife. Another part of what makes it so famous is that you have to be under 40 years of age to be eligible for the prize.
So what do people who have a long career in mathematics get? One such prize started in 2002 and is called the Abel Prize (That’s the Abel of abelian groups). It’s awarded for “outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics.” It’s quickly been recognized as one of the most prestigious prizes in mathematics.
A few weeks ago the 2009 winner of the Abel Prize was announced. This year’s recipient is Mikhail Gromov for his work in geometry. He is particularily known for his work in Geometric Group Theory. This is an area of mathematics where people study groups by looking at related topological and geometric structures and using tools there instead (so turning algebra problems into geometry problems). There is a strong OU connection since two of our faculty (him and him) along with several postdocs and grad students all are experts in this area of mathematics.
Mikhail Gromov is always in pursuit of new questions and is constantly thinking of new ideas for solutions to old problems. He has produced deep and original work throughout his career and remains remarkably creative. The work of Gromov will continue to be a source of inspiration for many future mathematical discoveries.
— The Abel Committee
To learn more about Gromov and his work you can read about him on Terence Tao’s Blog or read the official summary of his work by Vagn Lundsgaard Hansen. Or you can watch what a topologist sees when you give him a doughnut: