University of Texas at Austin

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tate picks up Abel Prize

John Tate, left, gets a hand from King Harald of Norway after presentation of the Abel Prize/Photo: Scanpix/Berit Roald, The Abel Prize/The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

John Tate, left, gets a hand from King Harald of Norway after presentation of the Abel Prize/Photo: Scanpix/Berit Roald, The Abel Prize/The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

John Tate, a professor emeritus of mathematics at The University of Texas at Austin, received the Abel Prize on May 25, 2010 from King Harald of Norway in a ceremony in Oslo.

The prize was awarded to Tate by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for his vast and lasting impact on the theory of numbers.

Over six decades of mathematical thinking, Tate developed many essential mathematical ideas and constructions. You can gauge his influence by how many of these ideas have been named for him. They include the Tate module, Tate curve, Tate cycle, Hodge-Tate decompositions, Tate cohomology, Serre-Tate parameter, Lubin-Tate group, Tate trace, Shafarevich-Tate group and Néron-Tate height.

While most of his work with numbers might be abstract, Tate is aware of the importance of hard cash to basic scientific research.

He told The Associated Press after the ceremony that he hopes the prize will inspire governments and other funding bodies to increase their budgets for basic research.

“To the people who distribute the funds – who out of necessity have to support stuff that’s of practical value to society – it’s not so clear that it’s worthwhile supporting basic research,” Tate said to AP. “But in the long term it’s very important. Knowledge that seemed just for its own sake has turned out to be of great value.”

Tate joined The University of Texas at Austin in 1990, after teaching at Harvard University for 36 years. He recently retired from his position as professor and the Sid W. Richardson Chair in Mathematics at The University of Texas at Austin.

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