Vincent Lafforgue Wins The 2019 Breakthrough Prize In Mathematics

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Grenoble, the big city of the French Alps. Vincent Lafforgue, recipient of the 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, makes his professional home here at CNRS and enjoys hiking in the foothills of the Alps. Credit: Getty Royalty Free

The winners of the 2019 “Oscars of Science” — the Breakthrough Prize — were announced yesterday. Nine researchers will be awarded a collective total of $22 million for their innovations in mathematics, fundamental physics and the life sciences.

The 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics recipient is Vincent Lafforgue of the CNRS and Institut Fourier, Université Grenoble Alpes in France. Lafforgue was awarded the prize “for ground breaking contributions to several areas of mathematics, in particular to the Langlands program in the function field case,” the Breakthrough Prize website notes. (Watch the short video “Vincent Lafforgue: 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics” here.) 

The Langlands program, which has been referred to as the search for a “grand unified theory of mathematics” investigates connections between number theory and analysis. Earlier this year, Robert Langlands, founder of the Langlands program, won the 2018 Abel Prize, one of the highest honors in mathematics. He was awarded this prize, which is modeled on the Nobel, “for his visionary program connecting representation theory to number theory,” the Abel Prize website states.

The Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics is relatively new. It was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner and first awarded in 2014. In a news release about the 2019 prizes, Richard Taylor, the chair of the selection committee, stated “Vincent Lafforgue, in the so called ‘function field case,’ found a beautifully simple direct argument. After seeing it you ask yourself how the rest of us could have missed it for so long. You finally see why Langlands correspondence has to exist – it no longer seems an unmotivated miraculous consequence of complicated computations.”

Also announced were the 2019 New Horizons in Physics and New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes. Those prizes, which were awarded to seven physicists and five mathematicians for their early career achievements, are worth a total of $600,000.

In the mathematics category, the winners are:

  • Chenyang Xu of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Beijing International Center for Mathematical Research. Citation: For major advances in the minimal model program and applications to the moduli of algebraic varieties.
  • Karim Adiprasito and June Huh of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Institute for Advanced Study, respectively. Citation: For the development, with Eric Katz, of combinatorial Hodge theory leading to the resolution of the log-concavity conjecture of Rota.
  • Kaisa Matomäki and Maksym Radziwill of the University of Turku and California Institute of Technology, respectively. Citation: For fundamental breakthroughs in the understanding of local correlations of values of multiplicative functions.

The 2019 Breakthrough Prize Ceremony will be hosted by Pierce Brosnan at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California on November 4. At this gala event, the Breakthrough Prize and New Horizons Prize winners will be recognized. It will be broadcast live on National Geographic, YouTube and Facebook Live.

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