Campus & Community

Bott Wins Israel’s Wolf Foundation Prize in Mathematics

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The Wolf Foundation, an Israel-based organization dedicated to the promotion of science and art, has named Raoul Bott, the William Caspar Graustein Research Professor of Mathematics, winner of the 2000 Wolf Foundation Prize in mathematics. He shares the prize with Jean-Pierre Serre of the College de France.

According to the Wolf Foundation prize committee, Bott was selected for “his many fundamental contributions in topology and differential geometry and their application to Lie groups, differential operators and mathematical physics.”

Bott will be honored with a reception at the offices of the Consulate General of Israel to New England in Boston on March 14. A formal award ceremony will be held at the Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem in May. Israel’s President Ezer Weizman will confer the prizes.

Bott, a native of Hungary, studied engineering at McGill University in Montreal, then received his Ph.D. in science from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. He joined Harvard’s faculty in 1959. He has taught at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., the University of Michigan, and the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (IHES) in France.

As a leading figure in the field of differential geometry, Bott’s recent work has focused on the application of geometry to mathematical physics and vice versa, and particularly to the theory of strings. His first major contribution was the application of Morse theory to the topology of Lie groups, which led to the famous “periodicity theorems.” He was a major contributor to the development of K-theory and also worked on Yang-Mills theory, moduli spaces of vector bundles, and elliptic genera.

“Through his publications, his students, and his personal qualities, he has significantly influenced the mathematics of our times,” the prize jury said in a statement announcing the winners.

Bott is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the London Mathematical Society. He is an honorary associate and former master of Dunster House.

According to the Wolf Foundation, the Wolf Prize has been awarded annually since 1978 to outstanding scientists and artists for “achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples, irrespective of nationality, race, color, religion, sex or political view.”

The prizes of $100,000 in each area, are given in four out of five scientific fields on a rotating basis. The fields are agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, and physics. In the arts, the prize is given in one of four rotating categories: architecture, music, painting, and sculpture.

Former Wolf Prize laureates include Andrew Wiles, Yakov G. Sinai, and Elias M. Stein, all of Princeton University; Joseph B. Keller of Stanford University; and Laszlo Lovasz of Yale University.

Bott and Serre will share the $100,000 prize.