Abel Prize 2008
On Tuesday, His Majesty King Harald presented the Abel Prize for 2008 to the two mathematicians, John Griggs Thompson of the USA and Jacques Tits of France. The ceremony took place in the University of Oslo Aula. The King was accompanied by Her Majesty Queen Sonja. The two prize winners will share the prize money, which amounts to NOK 6 million.
Thompson and Tits have won the prize for their contributions to what is referred to as group theory. The Abel Committee Chairman, Professor Kristian Seip, said in his explanation that the prize is awarded “for their outstanding achievements in algebra and especially for their shaping of modern group theory”.
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters is responsible for awarding the prize, and the Academy's President, Ole Didrik Lærum, noted in his speech that the Abel Prize was not just established to honour outstanding scientific achievements, but also to promote a greater appreciation in the society of the importance of mathematics and to stimulate young people's interest in the subject.
The composer and pianist Ketil Bjørnstad, the mezzo-soprano Randi Stene and the violist Lars Anders Tomter provided the ceremony's musical performances.
The Norwegian government took the initiative to establish the Abel Prize several years ago, and Niels Henrik Abel's Memorial Fund was established in 2001. The return from the fund is utilised in a number of activities in order to stimulate mathematical interest, among other things through the Abel Prize. The so-called Holmboe Prize, named after Niels Henrik Abel's teacher, was awarded on Monday. This prize goes to a teacher who shows a special enthusiasm for mathematics in his/her instruction. This year's prize was awarded to Elisabeth Aksnes at the Bryne School.
Prior to the presentation of the prize in the Aula, Thompson and Tits had an audience with His Majesty King Harald and Her Majesty Queen Sonja at the Royal Palace. The final event of the day will be the banquet given by the Norwegian government at Akershus Fortress, where Minister of Research and Higher Education Tora Aasland is the host.
On Wednesday, the two prize winners will hold their Abel Lectures at the University of Oslo.