Karen Uhlenbeck, whose seminal work helped launch a whole subject of arithmetic, was awarded the Abel Prize in a ceremony in the present day in Oslo. The prize, created in 2003 by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, is extensively considered because of the arithmetic equal of a Nobel Prize.
Uhlenbeck’s work has “led to among the most dramatic advances in arithmetic within the final 40 years,” the prize quotation reads. Her analysis “impressed an era of mathematicians,” mentioned François Labourie of the University of Côte d’Azur in France. “She wanders around and finds new issues that no person has discovered earlier than.”
Uhlenbeck was a voracious reader as a toddler; however, she didn’t turn out to be genuinely interested in arithmetic until she enrolled within the freshman honors math course on the University of Michigan. “The construction, magnificence and fantastic thing about arithmetic struck me instantly, and I misplaced my coronary heart to it,” she wrote within the guide Mathematicians: An Outer View of the Inner World.
Palais and the mathematician Stephen Smale (who gained a Fields Medal for his topology analysis quickly after) had merely made an advance concerning “harmonic maps” that may be kind the springboard for a few of Uhlenbeck’s personal most important outcomes. The research of harmonic maps might be retracted to a centuries-previous discipline of arithmetic referred to as the calculus of variations, which appears to be like for shapes which might be in equilibrium concerning some real bodily measurement, equivalent to vitality, size or space. For example, one of many oldest and most well-known issues within the calculus of variations is the “brachistochrone” downside, posed by Johann Bernoulli in 1696, which asks for the curve down which a ball will roll most shortly from one level to a different.
Uhlenbeck is the primary girl to obtain the Abel Prize within the award’s 17-yr historical past. It’s removed from the prime time she has damaged utilizing a glass ceiling; in 1990, as an example, she was solely the second lady ever to provide a plenary lecture on the International Congress of Mathematicians. (The primary lady to present such was Emmy Noether in 1932.) Through the years she has turned out to be an aspirational determine for a generation of female mathematicians. “We had been all impressed by her,” mentioned Chang, who earned her doctorate six years after Uhlenbeck.