Friday, March 23, 2007
Srinivasa S.R. Varadhan
Srinivasa S.R. Varadhan, a professor at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences since 1966, was on Thursday awarded the Abel Prize in Mathematics by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for "his fundamental contributions to probability theory and in particular for creating a unified theory of large deviations," which the Academy characterised as "hugely influential" and lauded for its "great conceptual strength and ageless beauty." He is expected to receive the Abel Prize from His Majesty, King Harald V of Norway, in Oslo on May 22nd. The honour is accompanied by a prize of $850,000. This is the second time in three years that an NYU mathematician has been the recipient of the Abel Prize: in 2005, Professor Peter Lax of the Courant Institute was awarded the Abel. Professor Srinivasa Varadhan, who is known as Raghu, is the Frank J. Gould Professor of Science and Professor of Mathematics at NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. He first came to Courant as a post-doctoral fellow in 1963 and has spent his entire professional life there, serving two terms as its director (1980-1984 and 1992-1994).Probability theory is the mathematical tool for analyzing situations governed by chance. The theory of large deviations studies the occurrence of rare events. This subject has concrete applications to fields as diverse as physics, biology, economics, statistics, computer science, and engineering.Varadhan’s theory of large deviations provides a unifying and efficient method for clarifying a rich variety of phenomena arising in complex stochastic systems, in fields as diverse as quantum field theory, statistical physics, population dynamics, econometrics and finance, and traffic engineering. It has also greatly expanded our ability to use computers to simulate and analyze the occurrence of rare events. Over the last four decades, the theory of large deviations has become a cornerstone of modern probability, both pure and applied.Varadhan arrived at Courant Institute in the Fall of 1963 as a postdoctoral fellow. Between 1966 and 1972, he developed the martingale formulation of the Markov processes with Stroock. During the next decade, M. Donsker and Varadhan formulated the modern theory of large deviations and applied it to solve many outstanding problems including the Wiener sausage and the polaron problem. Later on, partly in collaboration with G. Papanicolau, Varadhan introduced the entropy and the non-gradient system methods to the study of interacting particle systems. Varadhan is an elected member to the American Academy of Art and Science, National Academy of Science, Third World Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and The Royal Society. He received the the Sokol Award from the New York University in 1995 and the Birkhoff Prize from the American Mathematical Society and SIAM in 1994.The elder of Varadhan's two sons, Gopal, was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.