Emeritus Professor and Alum to Receive “Nobel Prize” of Mathematics
Peter D. Lax, an emeritus professor at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and an alumnus of NYU who earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees here, will receive the Abel Prize in mathematics from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters on Tues., May 24 in Oslo. The Crown Prince Regent of Norway will present the award at a ceremony that begins at 2 p.m. local time (8 a.m. EDT). The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters recognized Lax for “his groundbreaking contributions to the theory and application of partial differential equations and to the computation of their solutions” in its March 17 announcement. The honor is accompanied by a prize of $980,000.
For more information on the Abel Prize, go to www.abelprisen.no/en/
Lax received his bachelor’s degree in 1947 and his Ph.D. in 1949 from New York University. He became an assistant professor of mathematics at NYU in 1949, was director of the Courant Institute from 1972-1980, and was named an emeritus professor in 1999.
Lax - who was named to the National Academy of Sciences in 1962 - is one of the most prominent mathematicians of the second-half of the 20th century. He is the recipient of many honors, including the National Medal of Science (1986), the Wolf Prize (1987), the Chauvenet Prize (1974), the American Mathematical Society’s Steele Prize (1974), and the Norbert Weiner Prize (1975). He was president of the American Mathematical Society from 1977-1980. He worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos in 1945-6, and was a staff member at Los Alamos in 1950.
In awarding the prize, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters cited among his extraordinary scholarship the work Lax did in the 1950s and 1960s laying the foundations for the modern theory of nonlinear equations for hyperbolic systems; his introduction of the widely used Lax-Friedrichs and Lax-Wendroff numerical schemes for computing solutions (which has been extraordinarily fruitful for practical applications, from weather prediction to airplane design); his development of the “Lax Equivalence Theorem,” a cornerstone of modern numerical analysis; and his work on “soliton” solutions, in which he developed a unifying concept for understanding them, rewriting the equations in terms of what are now called “Lax pairs”.