American shares $1.2 million Norway math prize

A combination image showing Abel Prize winners John Griggs Thompson (L) and Jacques Tits, released to Reuters on March 27, 2008. REUTERS/Renate Schmid/Oberwolfach Photo Collection/Jean-François Dars/CNRS Images/Handout

OSLO (Reuters) - John Griggs Thompson of the United States and Jacques Tits of France were awarded a $1.2 million Norwegian mathematics prize on Thursday for their work in algebra and group theory.

The Abel Prize, named for the Norwegian 19th-century mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, has been awarded annually since 2003 and has been likened to a Nobel prize in mathematics.

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters chose Thompson of the University of Florida and Belgian-born Tits of the College de France “for their profound achievements in algebra and in particular for shaping modern group theory.”

“The achievements of John Thompson and Jacques Tits are of extraordinary depth and influence,” the prize committee said in its citation.

Group theory is a 200-year-old branch of mathematics that deals, among other things, with the concept of symmetry which is key to understanding the solution of equations.

Thompson revolutionized the theory of finite groups, and Tits created a new and influential notion of groups as geometric objects, the citation said.

The award will be handed to the Abel laureates by Norway’s King Harald at a ceremony in Oslo on May 20.

The two mathematicians, who have published their work separately, will share the prize of 6 million Norwegian crowns ($1.2 million).

Reporting by John Acher; Editing by Janet Lawrence