A Russian-born mathematician whose work has influenced fields from physics to biology has won this year's Abel Prize, the math field's counterpart to the Nobel. The $950,000 prize, first awarded in 2003 by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, goes to Mikhail Gromov of the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES) in Bures-sur-Yvette, France.
Gromov, 65, won the award “for his revolutionary contributions to geometry,” says Abel Committee Chair Kristian Seip. The mathematician, who also holds a position at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences in New York City, is credited with making advances in the fields of symplectic and Riemannian geometry, which are closely tied to areas of mathematical physics such as general relativity and string theory. He is also credited with founding the modern study of “geometric group theory,” which injects notions of distance and curvature into the study of finite algebraic structures. Gromov's work “has had a tremendous impact on geometry and has reached from there into major applications in analysis and algebra,” says George Andrews, president of the American Mathematical Society in Providence. “One cannot imagine a more worthy recipient.”