The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has decided to award the Abel Prize for 2013 to Pierre Deligne, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, USA. He receives the Abel Prize “for seminal contributions to algebraic geometry and for their transformative impact on number theory, representation theory, and related fields”, to quote the Abel committee. The Academy’s President, Kirsti Strøm Bull, made the announcement today, 20 March. Deligne will receive the Abel Prize from H.M. King Harald at an award ceremony in Oslo on the 21st of May.
The Abel Prize recognizes contributions of extraordinary depth and influence to the mathematical sciences and has been awarded annually since 2003. It carries a cash award of NOK 6,000,000 (about EUR 800,000 or USD 1 million).
Pierre Deligne is a research mathematician who has excelled in finding connections between various fields of mathematics. His research has led to several important discoveries. Deligne’s best known achievement is his spectacular solution of the last and deepest of the Weil conjectures. This earned him both the Fields Medal (1978) and the Crafoord Prize (1988), the latter jointly with Alexandre Grothendieck.
Deligne’s brilliant proof of the Weil conjecture made him famous in the mathematical world at an early age. This first achievement was followed by several others that demonstrate the extreme variety as well as the difficulty of the techniques involved and the inventiveness of the methods. He is best known for his work in algebraic geometry and number theory, but he has also made major contributions to several other domains of mathematics.
The Abel Committee says: “Deligne’s powerful concepts, ideas, results and methods continue to influence the development of algebraic geometry, as well as mathematics as a whole”.
Pierre Deligne was born in 1944 in Brussels, Belgium. He is Professor Emeritus in the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, USA. Deligne came to Princeton in 1984 from Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHÉS) at Bures-sur-Yvette near Paris, France, where he was appointed its youngest ever permanent member in 1970.
Deligne was only 12 when he started to read his brother’s university math books. His interest prompted a high-school math teacher, J. Nijs, to lend him several volumes of “Éléments de mathématique” by Nicolas Bourbaki, the pseudonymous grey eminence of French mathematics. For the 14-year old Deligne this became a life changing experience. His father wanted him to become an engineer and to pursue a career that would afford him a good living. But Deligne knew early on that he should do what he loved, and what he loved was mathematics. He went to the University of Brussels with the ambition of becoming a high school teacher, and of pursuing mathematics as a hobby for his own personal enjoyment. There, as a student of Jacques Tits, Deligne was pleased to discover that, as he says, “one could earn one’s living by playing, i.e. by doing research in mathematics”.
Pierre Deligne has received many distinguished international awards. He was awarded the Fields Medal at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Helsinki in 1978. Other prizes include the above mentioned Crafoord Prize (1988) from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science and the Balzan Prize in Mathematics (2004). In 2008 Deligne was awarded the Wolf Prize in Mathematics, jointly with P. Griffiths and D. Mumford.
In 2006 Deligne was honoured by King Albert II of Belgium, who made him a Viscount.
Pierre Deligne is an honorary member of the Moscow Mathematical Society and of the London Mathematical Society. He is a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Philosophical Society. He is also a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.