Karen Uhlenbeck first woman to win the Abel Prize

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has decided to award the Abel Prize for 2019 to Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck of the University of Texas at Austin, USA “for her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.”

His Majesty King Harald V will present the Abel Prize to the laureate at the award ceremony in Oslo on the 21st of May.

The woman behind the numbers

In 1987 Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck moved to the University of Texas at Austin to take up the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents

“The recognition of Uhlenbeck’s achievements should have been far greater, for her work has led to some of the most important advances in mathematics in the last 40 years.” – Jim Al-Khalili, Royal Society Fellow.

Uhlenbeck is a mathematician, but she is also a role model and a strong advocate for gender equality in science and mathematics. As a child, she loved reading and dreamed of becoming a scientist. Today, Uhlenbeck is Visiting Senior Research Scholar at Princeton University as well as Visiting Associate at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS). She is one of the founders of the Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI) at IAS, which aims to train young researchers and promote mutual understanding of the interests and challenges in mathematics.  

She is also the co-founder of the Institute’s Women and Mathematics program (WAM), created in 1993 to recruit and empower women to lead in mathematics research at all stages of their academic careers.

Filling the analyst’s toolbox

“Karen Uhlenbeck receives the Abel Prize 2019 for her fundamental work in geometric analysis and gauge theory, which has dramatically changed the mathematical landscape. Her theories have revolutionized our understanding of minimal surfaces, such as those formed by soap bubbles, and more general minimization problems in higher dimensions.” – Hans Munthe-Kaas, Chair of the Abel Committee.

Uhlenbeck developed tools and methods in global analysis, which are now in the toolbox of every geometer and analyst. Her work also lays the foundation for contemporary geometric models in mathematics and physics.

Inspired by a fellow Abel Prize laureate, the late Sir Michael Atiyah, Uhlenbeck became interested in gauge theory. Gauge theory is the mathematical language of theoretical physics, and Uhlenbeck’s fundamental work in this area is essential for the modern mathematical understanding of models in particle physics, string theory and general relativity.

About the Abel Prize

The Abel Prize recognizes contributions to the field of mathematics that are of extraordinary depth and influence. It is presented annually in Oslo by His Majesty King Harald V, and is administered by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters on behalf of the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.

The prize amount is NOK 6 million. The choice of laureate is based on the recommendations of the Abel Committee, which is composed of five internationally recognized mathematicians. The Abel Prize was established in 2002 on the 200th anniversary of Niels Henrik Abel’s birth, and it has been awarded to 19 laureates.

Niels Henrik Abel (1802–1829) was a Norwegian mathematician. In spite of his short life, he made significant contributions to a variety of mathematical fields.

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The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
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Telephone: + 47 22 84 15 00
E-mail: abelprisen@dnva.no
Web editor: Eirik Furu Baardsen
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