John Griggs Thompson, University of Florida
            Graduate Research Professor John Griggs Thompson of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Florida will be awarded the 2008 Abel Prize for Mathematics. He shares the 6 million NOK (more than $1 million) prize with the renowned mathematician Professor Jacques Tits of the College de France. This news was announced today by the President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Thompson and Tits will receive the prize on 20 May, 2008 in Oslo from His Majesty King Harald V of Norway. The news release from the Norwegian Academy, and the the citations of the 2008 Abel Laureates, can be found at http://www.abelprisen.no/en/

There is no Nobel Prize for mathematics, and the Abel Prize awarded by the Norwegian Acadmy of Science and Letters, is its equivalent in prestige and prize money. The prize is named after the great Norwegian mathematician Neils Henrik Abel and was launched in connection with his bicentenary in 2003. The prize recognizes outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics. Excluding the Abel Prize, the most prestgious prize in mathematics is the Fields Medal, which John Thompson won at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Nice in 1970. The Fields Medal, however, is awarded only to mathematicians under the age of forty. The Abel Prize, in contrast, recognizes the achievements of mathematicians of any age. This year's awards brings up to eight the total number of Abel Laureates. Three Fields Medalists including Professor Thompson are now also Abel Laureates.

The Abel Prize is a fitting recognition to Professor Thompson who has been a towering influence in the world of mathematics. This is a crowning addition to a long list of honors that he has received in an illustrious career spanning more than half a century. In winning the Abel Prize he has brought great recognition to the Mathematics Department, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the University of Florida.

Professor John Thompson is one of the most eminent mathematicians in the world. For more than half a century, he has been the leading authority in the field of Group Theory, which is a mathematical study of symmetries. The subject has its origins in the work of the nineteenth century French mathematician Evariste Galois, who in his teens discovered fundamental symmetry properties related to the solution of polynomial equations. Group theory today has found applications to many fields within and outside mathematics, including physics and chemistry.

As a graduate student in the fifties at the University of Chicago, Thompson solved a famous sixty year old problem in group theory.

It was clear that the ideas in his thesis would lead to a new era in group theory. Soon after his PhD, Thompson collaborated with Walter Feit, and the two stunned the world by solving one of the great problems of group theory, namely the solvability of all groups of odd order. The Feit-Thompson proof of this result was 253 pages long and filled an entire issue of the Pacific Journal of Mathematics! For this revolutionary work, Feit and Thompson were awarded the 1966 Cole Prize of the American Mathematical Society. Thompson continued to produce results of great importance

that shaped the development of group theory in the following decades. In particular, his work was crucial in the solution of one of the monumental problems of mathematics, namely the classification of finite simple groups. This sustained effort by hundreds of mathematicians around the world for over four decades was, in large part, launched and guided by him. The classification of finite simple groups was completed just a few years ago. For his outstanding contributions to algebra in general and group theory in particular, Thompson has received numerous awards and recognitions in addition to the Cole Prize and the Fields Medal. These include - the Senior Berwick Prize of the London Mathematical Society (1982), the Sylvester Medal of the Royal Society (1987), the Wolf Prize of Israel (1992), the Poincare Medal of France (1992), and the National Medal of Science (2000). He was awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Illinois, Yale University (where he was an undergraduate), Oxford University, and most recently by the Ohio State University a few days ago. He is Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and a Member of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. Thus Professor Thompson is the crown jewel of the Mathematics Department and the University of Florida.

Thompson received his PhD at the University of Chicago in 1959 under the direction of Saunders MacLane. After serving as Professor at the University of Chicago, he was appointed in 1970 as Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, England, where he was until his retirement in 1993, after which he joined the University of Florida as Graduate Research Professor of Mathematics. Professor Thompson has been an inspiring presence in the Department and has helped us build a world class group in algebra. For his 70-th birthday, the Department held a Special Year in Algebra 2002-03, when the most active researchers in the world in group theory assembled at the University of Florida. It was also in 2002-03 that the Department with the support of the Administration, launched the John G. Thompson Research Assistant Professorship in his honor. This is a three year position offered to the brightest recent PhDs in mathematics.

The international reputation of the Department has risen significantly in the last few years owing to the introduction of several programs of high quality. In launching and developing these programs, I have relied on Professor Thompson's guidance, and benefited from his wisdom and experience. Indeed the last decade has been the finest in the history of the mathematics department. It is a matter of immense pride for us that the high points in this period are the great honors bestowed on Professor Thompson. When he won the National Medal of Science in December 2000 from President Clinton, he brought unparalleled academic recognition to the Department and the University of Florida. And now, with the Abel Prize, the highest ever academic recognition to the University of Florida is once again due to Mathematics Graduate Research Professor John Thompson!

Krishnaswami Alladi
Department of Mathematics
University of Florida
27 March, 2008

See also
* Abel Ceremony and Related Events PHOTOS
* UF News Announcement on the Abel Prize
* Reception celebrating announcement of Abel Prize to John Thompson
* Dinner in honor of Abel Laureate John Thompson

Created Thursday, March 27, 2008.
Please send comments/report problems to: fgarvan@ufl.edu
Last update made Mon Apr 13 11:51:52 PDT 2015.