Citizen Reporter
1 minute read
20 Mar 2019
10:21 am

Mathematics’ Nobel prize goes to a woman for the first time

Citizen Reporter

Karen Uhlenbeck is the first woman in history to earn the distinction from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

Credit: The Abel Prize

In a historic first, Karen Uhlenbeck, a mathematician and professor at the University of Texas, has been awarded this year’s Abel Prize, a mathematics prize modelled after the Nobels. It’s the first time the award has gone to a woman.

The Abel Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters to mathematicians who have greatly influenced their field and includes a cash award of 6 million Norwegian kroner (R10.2 million).
The jury cited seventy-six-year-old Keskulla Uhlenbeck’s “fundamental work in geometric analysis and gauge theory which has dramatically changed the mathematical landscape” and praised her as “a strong advocate for gender equality in science and mathematics”.
Her work, which Abel committee chair Hans Munthe-Kaas referred to as having, “dramatically changed the mathematical landscape”, includes research involving something familiar to many – bubbles. She analysed “minimal surfaces”, such as those formed by soap bubbles.
The mathematician also created tools and methods in global analysis, which the award’s site states are now in the “toolbox of every geometer and analyst”. Her efforts provided the foundation for today’s geometric models in the fields of math and physics. She is also revered for her work on “gauge theory,” the mathematical gauge of theoretical physics, which gave an analytical foundation for many concepts researched in modern physics.

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