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Harvard Professor Receives Nemmers Mathematics Prize

Michael J. Hopkins recognized for outstanding achievement

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Michael J. Hopkins, one of the world’s pre-eminent algebraic topologists and a professor of mathematics at Harvard University, is the recipient of the 2014 Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics, Northwestern University announced today.

The Nemmers prize, which carries a $200,000 stipend, is among the largest monetary awards in the United States for outstanding achievement in mathematics.

“It is truly humbling to be recognized in this way,” said Hopkins, a Northwestern alumnus who last year received an honorary doctorate in science from the University. “I have benefited immeasurably from my years at Northwestern and the many remarkable mathematicians there.”

Hopkins is being recognized for his fundamental contributions to algebraic topology, stable homotopy theory and derived algebraic geometry.

“Michael Hopkins is clearly one of the most important mathematicians trained at Northwestern,” Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer said. “It is an extraordinary privilege to recognize Michael with the Nemmers prize for his significant contributions to the mathematics field, including creating new areas of study.”

In connection with his award, Hopkins will deliver a public lecture and participate in other scholarly activities at Northwestern during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years.

The 2014 prize marks the 11th time Northwestern has awarded the Nemmers prize in mathematics. Previous recipients are Ingrid Daubechies (2012), Terence Chi-Shen Tao (2010), Simon Donaldson (2008), Robert P. Langlands (2006), Mikhael Gromov (2004), Yakov G. Sinai (2002), Edward Witten (2000), John H. Conway (1998), Joseph B. Keller (1996) and Yuri I. Manin (1994).

Earlier this year, the University announced Jean Tirole as the recipient of the 2014 Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics and Esa-Pekka Salonen as the recipient of the 2014 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition.


Michael J. Hopkins

Hopkins’ work has revolutionized the field of algebraic topology, a field of mathematics which studies topological or geometric structures using the methods of algebra. He has pioneered the application of homotopy theory to a range of areas in mathematics, collaborating with geometers, number theorists and mathematical physicists.

Working with Michael Hill and Douglas Ravenel, Hopkins recently solved the long-standing Kervaire invariant problem. While this question first arose in the 1940s, it has a long history at Northwestern, particularly in the work of Mark Mahowald.

Hopkins is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a foreign member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. He is the recipient of numerous honors, including the National Academy of Sciences Award in Mathematics (2012) and the American Mathematical Society’s Oswald Veblen Prize in Geometry (2001).

Before joining Harvard’s faculty in 2005, Hopkins held professorships at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago.

Hopkins received a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from Northwestern, both in mathematics. He also earned a D.Phil. (doctor of philosophy) in mathematics from the University of Oxford as a result of his work there as a Rhodes Scholar.


Background on Nemmers prizes

The Nemmers prizes are made possible through bequests from the late Erwin Esser Nemmers, a former member of the Northwestern University faculty, and his brother, the late Frederic E. Nemmers, both of Milwaukee. The prizes are awarded every other year.

Erwin Nemmers, who persuaded his brother to join him in making a substantial contribution to Northwestern, served as a member of the faculty of the Kellogg School of Management from 1957 until his retirement in 1986. He and Frederic Nemmers were principals in a Milwaukee-based, family-owned, church music publishing house.

Their gifts, totaling $14 million, were designated by Erwin and Frederic Nemmers for the establishment of four endowed professorships in the Kellogg School of Management and the establishment, in 1994, of the Nemmers prizes.

Consistent with the terms of the Nemmers’ bequests, the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics (named in honor of the Nemmers’ father) and the Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics (named by Erwin in honor of his brother) are designed to recognize “work of lasting significance” in the respective disciplines. Each award has a value of $200,000.

The Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition (named in honor of the Nemmers’ grandfather) was added in 2004. The award has a value of $100,000.

Read more about the Nemmers prizes and all past recipients.