Prof. Edward Witten

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Albert Einstein World Award of Science 2016
Field of Research: Physics/Mathematics
Date: 14 October 2016
Place of Ceremony: Ziedonis Hall, National Library of Latvia
Host Institution: Riga Technical University
Country: Riga, Latvia

Professor Edward Witten, Charles Simonyi Professor, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, USA, has been selected as the winner of the ALBERT EINSTEIN World Award of Science 2016.

During the selection process, members of the Interdisciplinary Committee highlighted Professor Witten’s visionary research that affects our fundamental understanding of all physical interactions. This outstanding work has been done by spanning the two contrasting disciplines of mathematics and pure physics and has opened new fields of research that transcend disciplinary boundaries.

Professor Witten’s achievements fulfil the criteria for the ALBERT EINSTEIN World Award of Science because of their remarkable contributions to human thought and scholarship. The World Cultural Council acknowledges his persistence, breakthrough creativity and commitment to learning as an invaluable service to mankind and as an inspirational example for future generations.

Achievements

Professor Edward Witten received his B.A. from Brandeis University in 1971 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1976; he is Charles Simonyi Professor at the School of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, USA.

Edward Witten’s research is distinct, not only for its calibre but also for its deftness in navigating the perceived divide between pure physics and mathematics, enriching both fields in new and unforeseen ways. His ability to bridge two these contrasting disciplines has made him a world scientific leader and his achievements are a landmark in the academic world.

Probably best known for his seminal contributions to the modern interest in superstrings as a candidate theory for the unification of all known physical interactions, Witten played an influential role in the 1980s, showing how to derive semi-realistic models of particle physics from string theory. In the following decade, his work on duality and the strong coupling behaviour of string theory was highly significant. He is also known for numerous results in quantum field theory and the Standard Model of particle physics, sometimes using string theory methods.

Professor Witten’s contributions to mathematics have also been noteworthy. He is known, among other things, for his novel approaches to Morse theory, the Jones polynomial, and the positive energy theorem of General Relativity; for his work on the intersection theory in moduli spaces; and for the Seiberg-Witten invariants of four-manifolds and their relation to Donaldson invariants.

He is a member of numerous academic societies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and, as a foreign member, the Royal Society of London and the Académie des Sciences of the Institut de France.

Professor Witten has also been honoured with a MacArthur Fellowship (1982), the Dirac Prize and Medal of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (1985), the Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics (1998), the Nemmers Prize in Mathematics (2000), the National Medal of Science (2003), the Henri Poincaré Prize (2006), the Crafoord Prize in Mathematics (2008), the Lorentz Medal of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2010), the Isaac Newton Medal of the Institute of Physics (2010), the Fundamental Physics Prize (2012), the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences (2014), and the APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research (2015).

Witten is the author of over 300 scientific papers and is the first and only physicist to have been awarded a Fields Medal, the highest honour that can be bestowed on a mathematician.