Russian mathematician Yakov Grigorevich Sinai, one of the most influential mathematicians of the 20th Century, has been chosen for the 2014 Abel Prize by the Norwegian Academy of Science Letters. The President of the Academy, Nils Chr. Stenseth, announced this on Wednesday in Oslo.

Seventy-eight year-old Sinai, who concurrently holds the positions of a Senior Researcher at the Landau Institute of Theoretical Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, and a mathematics professor at Princeton University, U.S., has been selected for the Award, as the citation says, “for his fundamental contributions to dynamical systems, ergodic theory and mathematical physics.”

Mathematician’s Nobel

The Abel Prize recognises contributions of extraordinary depth and influence to the mathematical sciences and has been awarded annually since 2003. It carries a cash award of Norwegian Kronor 6,00,000 (about $1 million). The Abel Prize is the mathematician’s Nobel Prize (both in prestige and value). For mathematics, there is no Nobel award.

Sinai, whose work straddles both the disciplines of physics and mathematics, is highly respected in both the communities. He has achieved many groundbreaking results in the theory of dynamical systems, in mathematical physics and in probability theory. Many mathematical results are known after him: Kolmogorov-Sinai entropy, Sinai’s billiards, Sinai’s random walk, Sinai-Ruelle-Bowen measures and Pirogov-Sinai theory.

Interestingly, in 2006 he wrote an article titled “Mathematicians and Physicists = Cats and Dogs?” in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. He wrote: “[I]t is true that the worlds of mathematicians and physicists are quite different and there is a boundary which separates them. This boundary is very individual, and everybody chooses it for himself.”

He is recognised as the major architect of the most bridges connecting the areas of deterministic (dynamical) systems and probabilistic (stochastic) systems. In particular, he is the father of the modern metric theory of dynamical systems (also referred to as the theory of stochasticity of dynamical systems).

‘Profound impact’

He has trained and influenced a generation of experts in his fields and much of his research work has now become a standard toolbox for mathematical physicists. “His works,” notes the Abel Committee, “[have] had and continue to have a broad and profound impact on mathematics and physics, as well as on the ever-fruitful interaction between these two fields.”

Sinai received his Ph. D. in 1960 from the Moscow State University. His supervisor was the famous Russian mathematician, Andrei Kolmogorov. In 1971, he became a professor there and concurrently a Senior Researcher at the Landau Institute. In 1993, he became a professor at Princeton.

He has received many distinguished awards and honours, the Leroy P. Steele Prize, in particular, in 2013. In 2012, he was made a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

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