The prize announcement

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters awarded the Abel Prize for 2008 to John Griggs Thompson, University of Florida and Jacques Tits, Collège de France.

This was announced by the Academy’s President, Ole Didrik Lærum, at a press conference in Oslo, 27 March. Thompson and Tits receive the Abel Prize “for their profound achievements in algebra and in particular for shaping modern group theory”.

Christian Seip, chairman of the Abel Committee. Photo: ScanpixChristian Seip, chairman of the Abel Committee. Photo: Scanpix

Group theory is the “science of symmetries”, where one tries to understand the relation between reflections and rotations of a icosahedron, to reveal the secrets of Rubik’s cube or to control the symmetries among the solutions of the fifth degree equation, as done by Niels Henrik Abel.

Thompson and Tits have invented important new concepts and proved fundamental results in this field, and their names now appear prominently in the history of group theory.

Thompson revolutionised the theory of finite groups by proving extraordinarily deep theorems that laid the foundation for the complete classification of finite simple groups. Tits created a new and highly influential vision of groups as geometric objects.


The Abel committee says: “The achievements of John Thompson and of Jacques Tits are of extraordinary depth and influence. They complement each other and together form the backbone of modern group theory.” "The work of Thompson and Tits is one of the outstanding accomplishments of modern mathematics. The American Mathematical Society extends its warm congratulations to them on their award of the 2008 Abel Prize". - James Glimm, President of the AMS.

The Niels Henrik Abel Memorial Fund was established in 2002, to award the Abel Prize for outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics. The prize amount is 6 million NOK (about US$ 1.2 mill, EURO 750.000) and it was awarded for the first time in 2003.
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The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
Drammensveien 78
N-0271 Oslo, Norway
Telephone: + 47 22 84 15 00
Fax: + 47 22 12 10 99
Web editor: Anne-Marie Astad
Design and technical solutions: Ravn Webveveriet AS