American professor becomes first woman to be awarded top prize for math
© Courtesy of Andrea Kane, Institute for Advanced Study

Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck, a mathematician and professor at the University of Texas, has become the first woman in history to receive the Abel Prize, one of the most prestigious mathematics awards in the world.

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced that Uhlenbeck was the award’s newest recipient on Tuesday.


The body said it chose Uhlenbeck for the award because of “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 King of Norway will present the award to Uhlenbeck at an award ceremony in Oslo on May 21.

The Norwegian academy said Uhlenbeck has built a reputation developing tools and methods in global analysis, which it said are now "in the toolbox of every geometer and analyst.”

Paul Goldbart, the dean of the University of Texas's College of Natural Sciences, said in a release that "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,” he added.

The prize amount for the award is 6 million Norwegian kroner, approximately $700,000.