The Abel Prize for 2014 has been awarded to Russian mathematician Yakov Grigorevich Sinai on 26 March by Nils Chr. Stenseth, President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters at Oslo. He is the thirteenth recipient of this highly coveted prize which is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Mathematics. The Abel Prize was presented to the laureate by H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon at the award ceremony in the University Aula, Oslo, Norway on May 20, 2014.
Yakov Sinai is a stalwart in the theory of dynamical systems, mathematical physics and probability theory. He is an alumnus of Moscow State University. After leaving Moscow State University in 1993, he became a professor of Mathematics, at the Princeton University.
In addition, Sinai is also associated with the Landau Institute of Theoretical Physics and Russian Academy of Sciences. He has written more than 250 research articles and has supervised more than 50 PhD students.
Ragni Piene, chair of the Abel committee, lauded Sinai’s seminal contributions in shaping the modern metric theory of dynamical systems. World renowned mathematician Jordan Ellenberg gave a popular science presentation of Sinai's work. Besides Piene of University of Oslo, the Committee comprises renowned mathematicians namely Cédric Villani, Institut Henri Poincaré and Université de Lyon, France, Maria J. Esteban, Ceremade, Paris, France, Stanislav Smirnov, Section of Mathematics, University of Geneva, Switzerland and Gang Tian Mathematics Department Princeton University, US, and School of Mathematical Sciences, Beijing University, China.
The Abel Prize was instituted in memory of Niels Henrik Abel (1802-1829) who is acknowledged as the greatest son of Norway and considered among the pioneers of modern Algebra. While the Indian mathematical prodigy Srinivasa Ramanujan, died young of pneumonia, similarly Abel also passed away at an equally young age of tuberculosis. Coincidentally both these geniuses suffered a life of poverty.
The Niels Henrik Abel Memorial Fund was established in 2002, in the bicentenary year of Abel’s birth to award the Abel Prize for outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics. The six million Norwegian Kroner prize amount (INR six crore) was intended to strengthen and inspire teaching as well as scientific efforts. It re-established the uniqueness and centrality of Mathematics among all forms of knowledge -- but was excluded from the elite list of Nobel Prize subjects.
The Abel Prize was awarded for the first time in June 2003 to the French mathematician Jean-Pierre Serre. In 2004 and 2008 the honour was shared by two people each. Interestingly reputed Indian mathematician Srinivasa S. R. Varadhan of Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York won the Prize in 2007 for his fundamental contributions to probability theory and in particular for creating a unified theory of large deviations.
The award committee was highly appreciative of Sinai’s identification of umbilical relation between order and chaos. The committee noted Sinai’s contributions in the areas of Ergodic theory and Statistical Mechanics. The Ergodic theory studies the tendency of a system to explore all of its available states according to certain time statistics whereas statistical mechanics explores the behavior of systems composed of a very large number of particles, such as molecules in a gas.
Sinai along with his PhD advisor Andrey Kolmogorov, framed the Kolmogorov–Sinai entropy, a mathematical foundation for determining the number that defines the complexity of a given dynamical system such as weather, the motion of planets, economic systems etc.
As a forerunner in Ergodic theory, Sinai proved the first ergodicity theorems for scattering billiards in the style of Boltzmann. He constructed Markov partitions for systems defined by iterations of Anosov diffeomorphisms which led to a series of outstanding works showing the power of symbolic dynamics to describe various classes of mixing systems. He is well known for Sinai-Ruelle-Browen measures, Sinai’s walks, Pirogov–Sinai theory, the stochastic Burgers equation of E–Khanin–Mazel–Sinai, the Bleher–Sinai renormalization group theory.
Professor Sinai has trained and influenced a generation of leading specialists in his research fields. Much of his research has become a standard toolbox for mathematical physicists. His works had and continue to have a broad and profound impact on Mathematics and Physics, as well as on the ever-fruitful interaction of these two fields. He says to Ellenberg: “Mathematics and physics must go together as horse and carriage.” In his popular article, “Mathematicians and Physicists = Cats and Dogs?,” Prof. Sinai had written that for him theoretical physics played the same role as experimental physics played for a physicist.The journal Nature calls him a chaos-theory pioneer who developed fundamental tools for the study of unpredictable phenomena.
Professor Sinai has won almost all great awards in Mathematics which includes Boltzmann Medal (1986), Dannie Heineman Prize (1990), Dirac Prize (1992), Wolf Prize (1997), Nemmers Prize (2002) and Henri Poincaré Prize (2009). On his 75th birthday, the Moscow Mathematical Journal named him one of the greatest mathematicians of our time. It adds, ”Professor Sinai’s mere presence at a seminar or at a conference makes scientific life brighter and more exciting.”