2000 Frederic Esser Nemmers Mathematics Prize Recipient
Congratulations to the 2000 Nemmers Mathematics Prize winner
Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton
2000 Nemmers Prize in Mathematics Recipient
For his many contributions to particle physics and string theory
Edward Witten is professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
Witten is regarded as the world's premier theoretical physicist. Known for his many contributions to particle physics and string theory, he has almost single-handedly constructed a new branch of mathematical physics.
He is a leading scholar in the field of superstring theory, which seeks to describe all the fundamental forces of nature in one conceptual framework. The theory suggests that the basic building blocks of nature are not tiny particles but small loops and snippets of what resembles string. He has also proposed an extension of string physics, "M-Theory," to unify the five separate string theories into one "master" theory.
Witten's work on the related idea of topological quantum field theory — which allows physicists to find connections between seemingly unrelated equationsÐtogether with many achievements in mathematics inspired by insights from physics earned Witten the prestigious Fields Medal in 1990, the highest honor awarded to a mathematician under age 40.
Although a physicist, Witten's command of mathematics is rivaled by few mathematicians. By interpreting physical ideas in mathematical form, he has applied physical insight that has led to new and deep mathematical theorems.
Witten's ideas have triggered major mathematical developments by the force of their vision and conceptual clarity, with his main discoveries becoming theorems.
His work on supersymmetry and Morse theory has become of central importance in the study of differential geometry. Witten is the leading theorist on the most enigmatic problem of theoretical physics — the mathematical incompatibility of the foundation pillars of quantum mechanics and the General Theory of Relativity.
Witten served as a professor of physics at Princeton from 1980-87 when he joined the Institute for Advanced Study. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1982 and in 1985 received the Einstein Medal from the Einstein Society and the Physical and Mathematics Science Award from the New York Academy of Science.
In 1996 Time magazine profiled him as one of the 25 most influential people in America.