This year’s Abel Prize, the equivalent of a Nobel for mathematicians, was presented to László Lovász and Avi Wigderson for their exceptional work in the field of discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science.
In an online ceremony, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters commended Lovász and Wigderson for their research-filled careers. The two were pioneers in creating the algorithms and theories that would contribute greatly to the foundation for modern computer science.
Pioneers in Creating Modern Computer Science
In his presentation of the award, Chair of the Abel Committee Hans Munthe-Kaas shared the illustrious background of Lovász, the former president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and professor emeritus at Eötvös Loránd University.
Lovász is most well-known for his work in the field of combinatorics, and in graph theory two of his well-known milestones include proving Kneser’s conjecture and the Lovász local lemma. He is also one of the creators of the Lenstra-Lenstra-Lovász lattice basis reduction algorithm, created in 1982.
Munthe-Kaas said that:
Thanks to the leadership of Lovász and Wigderson, discrete mathematics and a relatively young field of theoretical computer science are now established as central areas of modern mathematics.”
After being presented the award by Norwegian Ambassador Trine Skymoen in Budapest, Lovász began his speech with sincere gratitude for the honor, sharing that it inspired him to look back on his research of more than fifty years.
László Lovász’ Decades of Research
When he had begun his studies in the field, students in Budapest practically had no access to computers. They would instead write one program over the course of five years, which they would then submit in paper to be punched into the university’s single computer.
Lovász described the theory of computing as a “deep and exciting new field of mathematics,” closely related to graph theory and discrete mathematics. Graph theory, he said, experienced another jump in importance in recent decades.
We now realize that most of the structures and systems we want to understand have an underlying network or graph, from computer to the internet, from ecological communities to the brain, from social networks to epidemics, graph theory is becoming the mathematical background for this new paradigm.”
The mathematician is privileged to have contributed to this period, and dedicated his gratitude to his wife, Katalin Vesztergombi, his children, his classmates, his colleagues, his teachers, especially Tibor Gallai and Vera Sós, and his fantastic research group.
Avi Wigderson received the Abel prize at the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, DC, saying that he is extremely happy to share it with his “colleague and friend, László Lovász.” Both Lovász and Wigderson have worked together in their research multiple times, and Lovász even taught Wigderson’s son when he was a guest student at Eötvös Loránd University.
The full award ceremony for Lovász and Wigderson’s Abel Prize can be seen here.
Featured photo via The Abel Prize’s Youtube channel