On Tuesday, March 19, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters named Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck the

2019 Abel Prize award winner. Uhlenbeck is a mathematician and professor emerita at the University of Texas at Austin. The mathematics prize is modeled after the Nobels, and this is the first time the prize has gone to a woman.

The prestigious international prize is awarded by the King of Norway to mathematicians who have greatly influenced their field and includes a cash award of 6 million Norwegian kroner (about $700,000).

“For more than three decades at The University of Texas, Karen Uhlenbeck conducted research that revolutionized geometric analysis and mathematics as a whole,” said UT President Gregory L. Fenves. “She was an inspiring teacher and dedicated mentor to thousands of UT students, motivating them to reach great heights in their academic and professional lives. The Abel Prize is the highest honor in mathematics, and it is one that Professor Uhlenbeck richly deserves.”

Professor Uhlenbeck was cited by the jury “for her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory, and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.” The jury also noted that she is also

"a strong advocate for gender equality in science and mathematics."
Many describe her work as some of the most important in 20th-century mathematics, constituting revolutionary advances in geometry. Uhlenbeck, 76, is known for her work with partial differential equations. But her career has spanned a number of disciplines, including physics, geometry and quantum theory.

In a statement, Paul Goldbart, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and a professor of physics, said, “Uhlenbeck’s research has led to revolutionary advances at the intersection of mathematics and physics. Her pioneering insights have applications across a range of fascinating subjects, from string theory, which may help explain the nature of reality, to the geometry of space-time.”

**The Abel Prize in Mathematics**
The

Abel Prize is named after Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel (1802–1829) and directly modeled after the Nobel Prizes. Its history dates back to 1899 when Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie learned that Alfred Nobel's plans for annual prizes would not include a prize in mathematics. It was Lie that suggested the Abel Prize.

In 2001, the

Norwegian government established the Abel Prize as an annual "Nobel Prize for Mathematics" and it first awarded in 2003.

The winner of the first Abel prize in 2003 was a French mathematician, Jean-Pierre Serre. The jury cited his contributions to algebraic topology, algebraic geometry, and algebraic number theory. He also won the Fields Medal in 1954.

Maryam Mirzakhani, with daughter Anahita, at the ICM 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. Mirzakhani is the first woman to win the Fields Medal.

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**The Fields Medal**
The Fields Medal is another prize awarded to mathematicians - (but they have to be under 40 years of age) - at the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) which meets every four years. The Fields Medal is named in honor of Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields. Fields was instrumental in establishing the award, designing the medal itself, and funding the monetary component.

The Fields medal was first awarded in 1936 to Finnish mathematician Lars Ahlfors and American mathematician Jesse Douglas. In 2014, the

Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani became the first female Fields Medalist.

She was cited for her “outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces."