15 May 2008, No. 12/2008

Abel Prize 2008 goes to Humboldtian

John Griggs Thompson is being awarded one of the most important research prizes for mathematics together with Jacques Tits in Oslo

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation would like to congratulate its Humboldt Research Award winner, Professor Dr. John G. Thompson, on being granted the Abel Prize 2008, valued at approx. 750,000 euros, which will be presented jointly to him and his colleague Jacques Tits, emeritus of the Collège de France, by Norway's King Harald on 20 May in Oslo. According to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, which is granting the award, the two academics are being honoured for their fundamental contributions to algebra and, particularly, the development of modern group theory.

Today, John G. Thompson is Graduate Research Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Florida in Gainesville and a member of several scientific academies. In 1980, he was granted the Humboldt Research Award and spent 1981 and 1984 working as a guest of Professor Christoph Hering at Tübingen University. As a professor, he also conducted research and taught at the universities of Chicago and Cambridge.

Thompson revolutionised the theory of so-called finite groups and laid the foundations for the complete classification of finite simple groups in 1982, one of the most significant mathematical achievements of the 20th century. In mathematics, groups are used to abstract from calculations with concrete figures. Simple groups are building bricks that can be used to build finite groups. Even if the building bricks are a known quantity, this does not mean that all the finite groups are known, too. Group theory belongs to the field of modern mathematics and can also be applied to chemistry and physics in numerous ways. By using group theory, for example, the amount of calculation required for making calculations in quantum chemistry is reduced significantly.

Thompson has received numerous international awards for his excellent performance in mathematics, including the Fields Medal and the Wolf Prize which, together with the Abel Prize, are the most important academic honours in the field of mathematics.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation annually enables more than 1800 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany. The Foundation maintains a network of some 23,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in 130 countries worldwide - including 40 Nobel Prize winners.

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