Karen Uhlenbeck has become the first woman to receive the Abel Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in mathematics.
She will receive 6 million Norwegian kroner or about $700,000.
Abel Prize Honors Karen Uhlenbeck
The University of Texas professor is recognized for "her pioneering achievement in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory, and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry, and mathematical physics." Her work is also described as one of the most important in the field of mathematics in the 20th century.
Hans Graver, the president of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, made the announcement on Tuesday, March 19, in Oslo. Professor Uhlenbeck is expected to receive the prestigious honor at an award ceremony on May 21, which will be attended by Norway's King Harald.
One of Uhlenbeck's greatest contribution was her work in the minimal surface which is demonstrated by a soap bubble. The soap bubble has always been interesting to mathematicians because they arrange themselves into shape with the least surface. In the process, she pioneered a field that did not exist before.
"Uhlenbeck's research has led to revolutionary advances at the intersection of mathematics and physics," stated Paul Goldbart, dean of the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. "Her pioneering insights have applications across a range of fascinating subjects, from string theory, which may help explain the nature of reality, to the geometry of space-time."
An Inspiration To Women Everywhere
Uhlenbeck is not just a respected mathematician, but she also encouraged young women to enter the field. She co-founded the Women and Mathematics, an annual program at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University that recruits and encourages women to lead mathematics research.
WAM hopes to address the imbalance in the number of men and women in the field of mathematics.
Uhlenbeck also received the MacArthur Fellowship, which is commonly known as the "Genius Grant", the National Medal of Science in 2000, and the Steele Prize for a Seminal Contribution to Research in 2007.