Abel Prize for maths awarded to woman for first time

This handout photo taken on March 18, 2019 in Princeton, New Jersey and released on March 19, 2019 by The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters / Institute for Advanced Study shows scientist Karen Uhlenbeck. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2019

Abel Prize for maths awarded to woman for first time

  • American Karen Uhlenbeck won the Abel Prize in mathematics for her work on partial differential equations
  • Uhlenbeck, 76, is a visiting senior research scholar at Princeton University

OSLO, Norway: Women took another step forward in the still male-dominated world of science Tuesday, as American Karen Uhlenbeck won the Abel Prize in mathematics for her work on partial differential equations.
“Karen Uhlenbeck receives the Abel Prize 2019 for her fundamental work in geometric analysis and gauge theory, which has dramatically changed the mathematical landscape,” Abel Committee chairman Hans Munthe-Kaas said in a statement.
“Her theories have revolutionized our understanding of minimal surfaces, such as those formed by soap bubbles, and more general minimization problems in higher dimensions.”
She is the first woman to win the prize, which comes with a cheque for six million kroner (620,000 euros, $703,000). She is also an advocate for gender equality in science and mathematics.
“I am aware of the fact that I am a role model for young women in mathematics,” said Uhlenbeck, according to a Princeton statement.
“It’s hard to be a role model, however, because what you really need to do is show students how imperfect people can be and still succeed... I may be a wonderful mathematician and famous because of it, but I’m also very human.”
Uhlenbeck, 76, is a visiting senior research scholar at Princeton University, as well as visiting associate at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), both in the US.
The Cleveland native “developed tools and methods in global analysis, which are now in the toolbox of every geometer and analyst,” the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters said.


With the award, Uhlenbeck joined a still very small club of women who have scored a scientific prize.
Of the 607 Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry or medicine between 1901 and 2018, only 19 women were among the awardees, according to the Nobel Prize website. Marie Curie won twice, once for physics and another time for chemistry.
Only one woman has won the other major international mathematics prize — the Fields Medal — Maryam Mirzakhani of Iran in 2014. She died in 2017.
Princeton mathematician Alice Chang Sun-Yung, who is a member of the Abel committee, said “women are relative ‘newcomers” as research mathematicians, so it will take a while for us to get to the level of the ‘top prize winners.’“
“There needs to be some ‘critical mass,’ not a just few truly outstanding exceptional individuals for the math community to recognize and accept women as equally talented (in math) as men,” she told AFP.
“But change is coming and is in the air,” she added, pointing to wins by Uhlenbeck and Claire Voisin, who won the Shaw Prize in science in 2017.
Named after the 19th century Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, the prize was established by the Oslo government in 2002 and first awarded a year later, to honor outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics, a discipline not included among the Nobel awards.
Along with the Fields Medal, which is awarded every four years at the Congress of the International Mathematical Union (IMU), it is one of the world’s most prestigious maths prizes.
burs-cat/oh/ska


France’s Notre Dame Cathedral to be rebuilt without modern touches

Updated 10 July 2020

France’s Notre Dame Cathedral to be rebuilt without modern touches

  • Plan includes recreating the 19th century spire designed by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc

PARIS: Notre Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt just the way it stood before last year’s devastating fire.
No swimming pool or organic garden on the roof of the medieval Paris monument, or contemporary glass spire, or other modern twists. And to stay historically accurate, it will again be built with potentially toxic lead.
That’s the verdict reached by French President Emmanuel Macron, the cathedral’s present-day architects and the general in charge of the colossal reconstruction project for one of the world’s most treasured landmarks.
Macron, who wants Notre Dame reopened in time for the 2024 Olympics, had initially pushed for a contemporary touch atop the cathedral, prompting eye-catching proposals from architects around the world.
But Macron came around to the traditionalists’ argument, and approved reconstruction plans for the 12th century monument that were presented Thursday, according to a statement from the state agency overseeing the project.
The plan includes recreating the 19th century spire designed by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc that collapsed in the fire and “favors fidelity to the monument’s form and a restoration of the cathedral in its latest state,” the statement said.
That means how Notre Dame was on the afternoon of April 15, 2019, before the fire broke out, consumed the roof and threatened the rose-windowed twin towers that keep the cathedral upright.
More than a year later, the structure remains unstable. It took nearly a year to clear out dangerous lead residue released in the fire and to get to the point where workers could start removing scaffolding that had been in place for a previous renovation effort. Actual reconstruction won’t start until next year.
The reconstruction plan presented Thursday says the project will replicate original materials “to guarantee the authenticity, harmony and coherence of this masterpiece of Gothic art.”
Those materials included tons of lead, which is raising concerns among health and environmental groups. Lead particles released during the fire forced schools in the area to close and prompted a lengthy, painstaking cleanup effort of the cathedral’s historic neighborhood on an island in the center of Paris.