Stony Brook University Professor Wins $1 Million Abel Prize From The Norwegian Academy Of Science And Letters

John W. Milnor has received the four most prestigious awards in mathematics

STONY BROOK, N.Y., March 24, 2011 – John Milnor, Professor of Mathematics and Co-director of the Institute for Mathematical Sciences at Stony Brook University has been awarded the $1 million Abel Prize by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters “for pioneering discoveries in topology, geometry and algebra.”

Oyvind Osterud, President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, made the announcement in Oslo on March 23.

Dr. Milnor will receive the Abel Prize from His Majesty King Harald at an award ceremony in Olso on May 24. The Abel Prize “recognizes contributions of extraordinary depth and influence to the mathematical sciences.” He was awakened at home with the news at 6 a.m., an hour before the announcement was made in Oslo.

“The Abel is the highest honor a mathematician can receive and I’m very grateful for it,” said Dr. Milnor. “I also look forward to seeing Norway once again—it is a lovely country.”

The Abel Prize is the latest in a litany of prestigious awards Dr. Milnor has received for his work throughout his career, which include the Fields Medal, the Wolf Prize in Mathematics, and three Steele Prizes, including one for Lifetime Achievement.

“The Abel Prize is an extraordinary honor and wonderful recognition for Jack Milnor,” said Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. M.D., President of Stony Brook University. “It is also a wonderful confirmation of the strength of Stony Brook's mathematics group, which continues to generate scholarly output of the highest order. We are very proud of Dr. Milnor and his distinguished colleagues.

In making the announcement, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters notes that “John Milnor’s profound ideas and fundamental discoveries have largely shaped the mathematical landscape for the second half of the 20th century. All of Milnor’s work display features of great research: profound insights, vivid imagination, striking surprises and supreme beauty.

“In the course of 60 years, John Milnor has made a deep mark on modern mathematics. Numerous mathematical concepts, results and conjectures are named after him. In the literature we find Milnor exotic spheres, Milnor fibration, Milnor number and many more. Yet the significance of Milnor’s work goes far beyond his own spectacular results. He has also written tremendously influential books, which are widely considered to be models of fine mathematical writing.”

Dr. Milnor spent his undergraduate and graduate student years at Princeton, studying knot theory under the supervision of Ralph Fox. He received an A.B. and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Princeton. After many years at Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study, with shorter stays at UCLA and MIT, he has settled at Stony Brook University, where he is now co-director of the Institute for Mathematical Sciences. Over the years, he has studied differential and algebraic topology, differential geometry and algebraic K-theory, theory of quadratic forms and combinatorial group theory. For the past 35 years, his main focus has been on dynamical systems and particularly on low dimensional holomorphic dynamical systems. Among his current projects is the preparation of a book to be called Dynamics, Introductory Lectures. Five volumes of his older collected papers have been published by the AMS.

“We all applaud the Abel prize committee choice of John Milnor” said Leon A. Takhtajan, Professor & Chairman, Department of Mathematics. “Many generations of mathematicians were brought up on his classic papers and books. Milnor's influence on mathematics development cannot be overestimated, and it is a great honor and privilege to have John Milnor, one of greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, as a colleague."

“It has been such a pleasure to work with Jack Milnor for 20 years,” said Misha Lyubich, Director of the Institute for Mathematical Sciences at Stony Brook University. “You become infected with his wonderful spirit of fascination by beauty of mathematical ideas and his relentless pursuit of perfection.”

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Milnor has received the American Mathematical Society’s Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement in January this year in addition to the two previous Steele Prizes for Mathematical Exposition (2004) and for Seminal Contribution to Research (1982). He was awarded the Fields Medal (1962), which is the International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics awarded to mathematicians under the age of 40 by the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union (IMU), the National Medal of Science (1967), and the Wolf Prize in Mathematics (1989), Israel’s highest honor in mathematics.

About The Abel Prize

The Niels Henrik Abel Memorial Fund was established in 2002 to award the Abel Prize for outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics. The Abel Prize is an international prize for outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics, including mathematical aspects of computer science, mathematical physics, probability, numerical analysis and scientific computing, statistics and also applications of mathematics in the sciences. The prize is meant to recognize contributions of extraordinary depth and influence in the mathematical sciences. The prize is awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. The choice of Abel Laureate is based on the recommendation of the Abel Committee, which consists of five internationally recognized mathematicians.