Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck received the prestigious Abel Prize 2019 for her revolutionary theories in geometric analysis and gauge theory. Her mathematical work proved to be fundamental in our understanding of minimal surfaces in our three-dimensional space and beyond. Moreover, she played an essential role in laying the foundation for many modern mathematical models used in particle physics, string theory, and general relativity.
Currently, Professor Emerita of Mathematics and Sid W. Richardson Regents Chair at the University of Texas at Austin, Uhlenbeck is a Visitor in the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton.
“Quite frankly: it is about time.”
—Prof Helmut Hofer (IAS)
Naturally, this momentous event at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has been preceded by many extraordinary highlights in her career as a highly sought-after pioneering expert. Some of them stand out even more because they expose the perplexing disparity in the acknowledgement of contributions between men and women in academia. In 1990, she held a Plenary Lecture at the world’s most seminal International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), in Kyoto, making her only the second woman in history to do so. The other one being the eminent Emmy Noether forty-eight years earlier.
Today brought another highlight: she is the first woman to receive the Abel Prize.
“Quite frankly: it is about time. Karen has had a tremendous impact on the development of modern geometric analysis, particularly the calculus of variations. Her contributions to minimal surface theory and Yang-Mills theory have changed the subjects and started some of the most exciting developments in mathematics,” said Helmut Hofer, IAS Professor in the School of Mathematics, in the Institute’s press release.
For more information about Professor Uhlenbeck, her achievements, and on the Abel Prize, visit their website.
Featured photograph: In 1987 Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck moved to the University of Texas at Austin to take up the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents’ Chair in mathematics where she worked until 2014. Currently, Uhlenbeck is a Visiting Senior Research Scholar at Princeton University as well as Visitor in the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS). Photo: Andrea Kane/Institute for Advanced Study