Science 3 min read

Abel Prize in Mathematics Awarded to a Woman for the First Time

Dr. Karen Uhlenbeck is the first woman to receive the Abel Prize in mathematics | Image courtesy of Andrea Kane/Institute of Advanced Studies

Dr. Karen Uhlenbeck is the first woman to receive the Abel Prize in mathematics | Image courtesy of Andrea Kane/Institute of Advanced Studies

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters just made history after awarding the prestigious Abel Prize in Mathematics to a woman for the first time.

The recipient of the award is the University of Texas in Austin emeritus professor, Dr. Karen Uhlenbeck.

In a statement, Royal Society Fellow, Jim Al-Khalili, said:

“The recognition of Uhlenbeck’s achievements should have been far greater, for her work has led to some of the most important advances in mathematics in the last 40 years.”

The Abel Prize, named after the Norwegian mathematician Niels Hendrik Abel, addresses the gap left by the Nobel Prize for mathematics category.

The award-giving body was founded in 2003 and, since then, has given out the Abel Prize annually to chosen scholars and academics for their significant contributions in the area of mathematics.

Abel Prize in Mathematics Recipient, Karen Uhlenbeck

Dr. Uhlenbeck received the Abel Prize for her work in geometric analysis and gauge theory which reportedly changed the mathematical landscape. In a statement, Abel Committee Chair Hans Munthe-Kaas said:

“Karen Uhlenbeck is a founder of modern geometric analysis. Her perspective has pervaded the field and led to some of the most dramatic advances in mathematics over the last 40 years.

“Her theories have revolutionized our understanding of minimal surfaces, such as those formed by soap bubbles, and more general minimization problems in higher dimensions.”

Gauge theory is the language of theoretical physics. Furthermore, Dr. Uhlenbeck’s work also set the foundation critical to the study of string theory, particle physics, and general relativity.

She developed several tools and methods in a global analysis which are now part of the toolbox of every geometer and analyst today.

At 76, Dr. Uhlenbeck is also a visiting associate at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. When asked about how she learned the news, she said:

“When I came out of church, I noticed that I had a text message from Alice Chang that said, Would I please accept a call from Norway? When I got home, I called Norway back and they told me.”

Dr. Uhlenbeck will receive the Abel Prize in Mathematics in a special ceremony on May 21st in Oslo. It will be presented by His Majesty King Harald V and has an accompanying monetary reward amounting to NOK 6 million ($704,000 USD).

Read More: A Woman Wins The 2018 Nobel Prize In Physics After 5 Decades

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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