The Info List - Edward Witten

Edward Witten
Edward Witten
(/ˈwɪtən/; born August 26, 1951) is an American theoretical physicist and professor of mathematical physics at the Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study
in Princeton, New Jersey. Witten is a researcher in string theory, quantum gravity, supersymmetric quantum field theories, and other areas of mathematical physics. In addition to his contributions to physics, Witten's work has significantly impacted pure mathematics.[4] In 1990, he became the first and so far the only physicist to be awarded a Fields Medal
Fields Medal
by the International Mathematical Union, awarded for his 1981 proof of the positive energy theorem in general relativity.[5]


1 Early life and education 2 Research

2.1 Fields medal work 2.2 M-theory 2.3 Other work

3 Awards and honors 4 Personal life 5 Selected publications 6 References 7 External links

Early life and education[edit] Witten was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to a Jewish
family.[6] He is the son of Lorraine (Wollach) Witten and Louis Witten, a theoretical physicist specializing in gravitation and general relativity.[7] Witten attended the Park School of Baltimore
(class of '68), and received his Bachelor of Arts with a major in history and minor in linguistics from Brandeis University
Brandeis University
in 1971. He published articles in The New Republic
The New Republic
and The Nation. In 1968, Witten published an article in The Nation
The Nation
arguing that the New Left
New Left
had no strategy.[2] He worked briefly for George McGovern's presidential campaign. Witten attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Wisconsin–Madison
for one semester as an economics graduate student before dropping out.[2] He returned to academia, enrolling in applied mathematics at Princeton University in 1973, then shifting departments and receiving a Ph.D.
in physics in 1976 under David Gross,[2] the 2004 Nobel laureate
Nobel laureate
in Physics. He held a fellowship at Harvard University
Harvard University
(1976–77), visited Oxford University (1977–78),[3][8] was a junior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows (1977–80), and held a MacArthur Foundation fellowship (1982). Research[edit] Fields medal work[edit] Witten was awarded the Fields Medal
Fields Medal
by the International Mathematical Union in 1990, becoming the first physicist to win the prize. In a written address to the ICM, Michael Atiyah
Michael Atiyah
said of Witten,[4]

Although he is definitely a physicist (as his list of publications clearly shows) his command of mathematics is rivaled by few mathematicians, and his ability to interpret physical ideas in mathematical form is quite unique. Time and again he has surprised the mathematical community by a brilliant application of physical insight leading to new and deep mathematical theorems... [H]e has made a profound impact on contemporary mathematics. In his hands physics is once again providing a rich source of inspiration and insight in mathematics.

Edward Witten
Edward Witten
(left) with mathematician Shigefumi Mori, probably at the ICM in 1990 where they received the Fields Medal.

As an example of Witten's work in pure mathematics, Atiyah cites his application of techniques from quantum field theory to the mathematical subject of low-dimensional topology. In the late 1980s, Witten coined the term topological quantum field theory for a certain type of physical theory in which the expectation values of observable quantities encode information about the topology of spacetime.[9] In particular, Witten realized that a physical theory now called Chern–Simons theory could provide a framework for understanding the mathematical theory of knots and 3-manifolds.[10] Although Witten's work was based on the mathematically ill-defined notion of a Feynman path integral and was therefore not mathematically rigorous, mathematicians were able to systematically develop Witten's ideas, leading to the theory of Reshetikhin–Turaev invariants.[11] Another result for which Witten was awarded the Fields Medal
Fields Medal
was his proof in 1981 of the positive energy theorem in general relativity.[12] This theorem asserts that (under appropriate assumptions) the total energy of a gravitating system is always positive and can be zero only if the geometry of spacetime is that of flat Minkowski space. It establishes Minkowski space
Minkowski space
as a stable ground state of the gravitational field. While the original proof of this result due to Richard Schoen
Richard Schoen
and Shing-Tung Yau
Shing-Tung Yau
used variational methods,[13][14] Witten's proof used ideas from supergravity theory to simplify the argument. A third area mentioned in Atiyah's address is Witten's work relating supersymmetry and Morse theory,[15] a branch of mathematics that studies the topology of manifolds using the concept of a differentiable function. Witten's work gave a physical proof of a classical result, the Morse inequalities, by interpreting the theory in terms of supersymmetric quantum mechanics. M-theory[edit] By the mid 1990s, physicists working on string theory had developed five different consistent versions of the theory. These versions are known as type I, type IIA, type IIB, and the two flavors of heterotic string theory (SO(32) and E8×E8). The thinking was that out of these five candidate theories, only one was the actual correct theory of everything, and that theory was the one whose low-energy limit matched the physics observed in our world today. Speaking at the string theory conference at University of Southern California in 1995, Witten made the surprising suggestion that these five string theories were in fact not distinct theories, but different limits of a single theory which he called M-theory.[16][17] Witten's proposal was based on the observation that the five string theories can be mapped to one another by certain rules called dualities and are identified by these dualities. Witten's announcement led to a flurry of work now known as the second superstring revolution. Other work[edit]

Edward Witten
Edward Witten
with David Gross
David Gross
and Stephen Hawking

Another of his contributions to physics was to the result of gauge/gravity duality. In 1997, Juan Maldacena
Juan Maldacena
formulated a result known as the AdS/CFT correspondence, which establishes a relationship between certain quantum field theories and theories of quantum gravity.[18] Maldacena's discovery has dominated high energy theoretical physics for the past 15 years because of its applications to theoretical problems in quantum gravity and quantum field theory. Witten's foundational work following Maldacena's result has shed light on this relationship.[19] In collaboration with Nathan Seiberg, Witten established several powerful results in quantum field theories. In their paper on string theory and noncommutative geometry, Seiberg and Witten studied certain noncommutative quantum field theories that arise as limits of string theory.[20] In another well known paper, they studied aspects of supersymmetric gauge theory.[21] The latter paper, combined with Witten's earlier work on topological quantum field theory,[9] led to developments in the topology of smooth 4-manifolds, in particular the notion of Seiberg–Witten invariants. With Anton Kapustin, he has made deep mathematical connections between S-duality of gauge theories and the geometric Langlands correspondence. Partly in collaboration with Seiberg, one of his recent interests include aspects of field theoretical description of topological phases in condensed matter and non-supersymmetric dualities in field theories that, among other things, are of high relevance in condensed matter theory. From a generalization of SYK models from condensed matter and quantum chaos, he has also recently brought tensor models of Garau to the relevance of holographic and quantum gravity theories. In general, Witten has done influential and insightful works in many aspects of quantum field theories and mathematical physics, including the physics and mathematics of anomalies, integrability, dualities, localization, homologies and so on. Many of his results have deeply influenced many areas in theoretical physics (often well beyond the original context of his results), including string theory, quantum gravity and topological condensed matter. Awards and honors[edit] Witten has been honored with numerous awards including a MacArthur Grant (1982), the Fields Medal
Fields Medal
(1990), the Nemmers Prize in Mathematics (2000), the National Medal of Science[22] (2002), Pythagoras Award[23] (2005), the Henri Poincaré Prize (2006), the Crafoord Prize (2008), the Lorentz Medal
Lorentz Medal
(2010) the Isaac Newton Medal (2010) and the Fundamental Physics Prize
Fundamental Physics Prize
(2012). Since 1999, he has been a Foreign Member of the Royal Society
Royal Society
(London), and in March 2016 was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society
Royal Society
of Edinburgh.[24][25] Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
appointed Witten as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
Pontifical Academy of Sciences
(2006). He also appeared in the list of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people of 2004. In 2012 he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.[26] In an informal poll at a 1990 cosmology conference, Witten received the largest number of mentions as "the smartest living physicist".[27] Personal life[edit] Witten has been married to Chiara Nappi, a professor of physics at Princeton University, since 1979.[28] They have two daughters, Ilana, a neuroscientist at Princeton University,[29] and Daniela, a biostatistician at University of Washington,[30] and one son, Rafael, and a granddaughter Nava. Witten sits on the board of directors of Americans for Peace Now and is also on the advisory council of J Street.[31] He supports the two-state solution and advocates a boycott of Israeli institutions and economic activity beyond its 1967 borders, though not of Israel itself.[32] Witten is also a keen tennis player.[33] Selected publications[edit]

Some Problems in the Short Distance Analysis of Gauge Theories. Princeton University, 1976. (Dissertation.) Roman Jackiw, David Gross, Sam B. Treiman, Edward Witten, Bruno Zumino. Current Algebra and Anomalies: A Set of Lecture Notes and Papers. World Scientific, 1985. Green, M., John H. Schwarz, and E. Witten. Superstring Theory. Vol. 1, Introduction. Cambridge Monographs on Mathematical Physics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988. ISBN 9780521357524. Green, M., John H. Schwarz, and E. Witten. Superstring Theory. Vol. 2, Loop Amplitudes, Anomalies and Phenomenology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988. ISBN 9780521357531. Quantum fields and strings: a course for mathematicians. Vols. 1, 2. Material from the Special
Year on Quantum Field Theory held at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, 1996–1997. Edited by Pierre Deligne, Pavel Etingof, Daniel S. Freed, Lisa C. Jeffrey, David Kazhdan, John W. Morgan, David R. Morrison and Edward Witten. American Mathematical Society, Providence, RI; Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), Princeton, NJ, 1999. Vol. 1: xxii+723 pp.; Vol. 2: pp. i–xxiv and 727–1501. ISBN 0-8218-1198-3, 81–06 (81T30 81Txx).


^ "Announcement of 2016 Winners". World Cultural Council. June 6, 2016. Archived from the original on June 7, 2016. Retrieved June 6, 2016.  ^ a b c d Woit, Peter (2006). Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law. New York: Basic Books. p. 105. ISBN 0-465-09275-6.  ^ a b c Edward Witten
Edward Witten
– Adventures in physics and math (Kyoto Prize lecture 2014) ^ a b Atiyah, Michael (1990). "On the Work of Edward Witten" (PDF). Proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians. pp. 31–35. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-03-01.  ^ Michael Atiyah. "On the Work of Edward Witten" (PDF). Mathunion.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 March 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017.  ^ Witten biography - MacTutor History of Mathematics ^ The International Who's Who 1992-93, p. 1754. ^ Interview by Hirosi Ooguri, Notices Amer. Math. Soc., May 2015, pp. 491–506. ^ a b Witten, Edward (1988), "Topological quantum field theory", Communications in Mathematical Physics, 117 (3): 353–386, Bibcode:1988CMaPh.117..353W, doi:10.1007/BF01223371  ^ Witten, Edward (1989). "Quantum Field Theory and the Jones Polynomial" (PDF). Communications in Mathematical Physics. 121 (3): 351–399. Bibcode:1989CMaPh.121..351W. doi:10.1007/BF01217730.  ^ Reshetikhin, Nicolai; Turaev, Vladimir (1991). "Invariants of 3-manifolds via link polynomials and quantum groups". Inventiones Mathematicae. 103 (1): 547–597. Bibcode:1991InMat.103..547R. doi:10.1007/BF01239527.  ^ Witten, Edward (1981). "A new proof of the positive energy theorem". Communications in Mathematical Physics. 80 (3): 381–402. Bibcode:1981CMaPh..80..381W. doi:10.1007/BF01208277.  ^ Schoen, Robert; Yau, Shing-Tung (1979). "On the proof of the positive mass conjecture in general relativity". Communications in Mathematical Physics. 65: 45. Bibcode:1979CMaPh..65...45S. doi:10.1007/BF01940959.  ^ Schoen, Robert; Yau, Shing-Tung (1981). "Proof of the positive mass theorem. II". Communications in Mathematical Physics. 79: 231. Bibcode:1981CMaPh..79..231S. doi:10.1007/BF01942062.  ^ Witten, Edward (1982). "Super-symmetry and Morse Theory". Journal of Differential Geometry. 17: 661–692.  ^ University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Future Perspectives in String Theory, March 13-18, 1995, E. Witten: Some problems of strong and weak coupling ^ Witten, Edward (1995). " String theory
String theory
dynamics in various dimensions". Nuclear Physics
B. 443 (1): 85–126. arXiv:hep-th/9503124 . Bibcode:1995NuPhB.443...85W. doi:10.1016/0550-3213(95)00158-O.  ^ Juan M. Maldacena (1998). "The Large N limit of superconformal field theories and supergravity". Advances in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics. 2: 231–252. arXiv:hep-th/9711200 . Bibcode:1998AdTMP...2..231M. doi:10.1063/1.59653.  ^ Edward Witten
Edward Witten
(1998). "Anti-de Sitter space and holography". Advances in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics. 2: 253–291. arXiv:hep-th/9802150 . Bibcode:1998hep.th....2150W.  ^ Seiberg, Nathan; Witten, Edward (1999). "String Theory and Noncommutative Geometry". Journal of High Energy
(9): 032. arXiv:hep-th/9908142 . Bibcode:1999JHEP...09..032S. doi:10.1088/1126-6708/1999/09/032.  ^ Seiberg, Nathan; Witten, Edward (1994). "Electric-magnetic duality, monopole condensation, and confinement in N=2 supersymmetric Yang-Mills theory". Nuclear Physics
B. 426 (1): 19–52. arXiv:hep-th/9407087 . Bibcode:1994NuPhB.426...19S. doi:10.1016/0550-3213(94)90124-4.  ^ "Edward Witten", The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details. ^ "Il premio Pitagora al fisico teorico Witten". Il Crotonese (in Italian). September 23, 2005. Archived from the original on 2011-07-22.  ^ "Foreign Members", The Royal Society. ^ https://www.royalsoced.org.uk/1200_2016ElectedFellows.html ^ List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2013-09-01. ^ Lemonick, Michael (April 26, 2004). "Edward Witten". Time. Retrieved November 1, 2011.  "At a 1990 conference on cosmology," wrote John Horgan in 2014, "I asked attendees, who included folks like Stephen Hawking, Michael Turner, James Peebles, Alan Guth
Alan Guth
and Andrei Linde, to nominate the smartest living physicist. Edward Witten
Edward Witten
got the most votes (with Steven Weinberg
Steven Weinberg
the runner-up). Some considered Witten to be in the same league as Einstein and Newton." See " Physics
Titan Edward Witten Still Thinks String Theory 'on the Right Track'". scientificamerican.com. 22 September 2014. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 

^ Witten, Ed. "The 2014 Kyoto Prize
Kyoto Prize
Commemorative Lecture in Basic Sciences" (PDF). Retrieved 28 January 2017.  ^ "Faculty » Ilana B. Witten". princeton.edu. Retrieved 18 November 2016.  ^ "UW Faculty » Daniela M. Witten". washington.edu. Retrieved 9 July 2015.  ^ "Advisory Council". J Street. 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-14.  ^ "For an Economic Boycott and Political Nonrecognition of the Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories", NYRB, October 2016. ^ " Jewish
American Physicist Says He'll Send Part of $3 Million Prize to J Street". JTA. 4 August 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2017 – via haaretz.com. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Edward Witten.

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Edward Witten

Faculty webpage Publications on ArXiv O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Edward Witten", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews . Edward Witten
Edward Witten
at the Mathematics Genealogy Project A Physicist’s Physicist Ponders the Nature of Reality, Interview with Nathalie Wolchover in Quanta Magazine, 28th November, 2017

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Fellows of the Royal Society
Royal Society
elected in 1999


Frances Ashcroft Anthony Barrett Rosa Beddington Derek Briggs Simon Campbell Ian Carmichael Lorna Casselton John Brian Clegg David Cockayne David Delpy Derek Denton Raymond Dixon Athene Donald Philip England Douglas Fearon Gary Gibbons Timothy Gowers Ron Grigg Alan Hall Peter L. Knight John Paul Maier Barry Marshall Iain Mattaj Ernest McCulloch John G. McWhirter John Mollon John Ockendon John Pethica Dolph Schluter John G. Shepherd Joseph Silk James Stirling Alfred G. Sykes Janet Thornton John F. Toland Tony Trewavas Alan Walker Graham Barry Warren Denis Weaire Peter M. Williams Robert Williamson Magdi Yacoub


Robert Huber Marc Kirschner G. Ledyard Stebbins Gilbert Stork Edward Witten  Richard Zare

v t e

Fields Medalists

1936  Ahlfors Douglas

1950  Schwartz Selberg

1954  Kodaira Serre

1958  Roth Thom

1962  Hörmander Milnor

1966  Atiyah Cohen Grothendieck Smale

1970  Baker Hironaka Novikov Thompson

1974  Bombieri Mumford

1978  Deligne Fefferman Margulis Quillen

1982  Connes Thurston Yau

1986  Donaldson Faltings Freedman

1990  Drinfeld Jones Mori Witten

1994  Bourgain Lions Yoccoz Zelmanov

1998  Borcherds Gowers Kontsevich McMullen

2002  Lafforgue Voevodsky

2006  Okounkov Perelman (declined) Tao Werner

2010  Lindenstrauss Ngô Smirnov Villani

2014  Avila Bhargava Hairer Mirzakhani

Book Category Mathematics portal

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Breakthrough Prize laureates

Fundamental physics

Nima Arkani-Hamed, Alan Guth, Alexei Kitaev, Maxim Kontsevich, Andrei Linde, Juan Maldacena, Nathan Seiberg, Ashoke Sen, Edward Witten (2012) Special: Stephen Hawking, Peter Jenni, Fabiola Gianotti
Fabiola Gianotti
(ATLAS), Michel Della Negra, Tejinder Virdee, Guido Tonelli, Joseph Incandela (CMS) and Lyn Evans
Lyn Evans
(LHC) (2013) Alexander Polyakov (2013) Michael Green and John Henry Schwarz (2014) Saul Perlmutter
Saul Perlmutter
and members of the Supernova Cosmology Project; Brian Schmidt, Adam Riess
Adam Riess
and members of the High-Z Supernova Team (2015) Special: Ronald Drever, Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss
Rainer Weiss
and contributors to LIGO
project (2016) Yifang Wang and Kam-Biu Luk
Kam-Biu Luk
and the Daya Bay team, Atsuto Suzuki and the KamLAND team, Koichiro Nishikawa and the K2K / T2K team, Arthur B. McDonald and the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory
Sudbury Neutrino Observatory
team, Takaaki Kajita
Takaaki Kajita
and Yoichiro Suzuki and the Super-Kamiokande
team (2016) Joseph Polchinski, Andrew Strominger, Cumrun Vafa
Cumrun Vafa
(2017) Charles L. Bennett, Gary Hinshaw, Norman Jarosik, Lyman Page
Lyman Page
Jr., David Spergel (2018)

Life sciences

Cornelia Bargmann, David Botstein, Lewis C. Cantley, Hans Clevers, Titia de Lange, Napoleone Ferrara, Eric Lander, Charles Sawyers, Robert Weinberg, Shinya Yamanaka
Shinya Yamanaka
and Bert Vogelstein
Bert Vogelstein
(2013) James P. Allison, Mahlon DeLong, Michael N. Hall, Robert S. Langer, Richard P. Lifton and Alexander Varshavsky (2014) Alim-Louis Benabid, Charles David Allis, Victor Ambros, Gary Ruvkun, Jennifer Doudna
Jennifer Doudna
and Emmanuelle Charpentier
Emmanuelle Charpentier
(2015) Edward Boyden, Karl Deisseroth, John Hardy, Helen Hobbs and Svante Pääbo (2016) Stephen J. Elledge, Harry F. Noller, Roeland Nusse, Yoshinori Ohsumi, Huda Zoghbi
Huda Zoghbi
(2017) Joanne Chory, Peter Walter, Kazutoshi Mori, Kim Nasmyth, Don W. Cleveland (2018)


Simon Donaldson, Maxim Kontsevich, Jacob Lurie, Terence Tao
Terence Tao
and Richard Taylor (2015) Ian Agol
Ian Agol
(2016) Jean Bourgain
Jean Bourgain
(2017) Christopher Hacon, James McKernan
James McKernan

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Albert Einstein World Award of Science
Albert Einstein World Award of Science

Ricardo Bressani (1984) Werner Stumm (1985) Monokombu Sambasivan Swaminathan (1986) Hugh Huxley (1987) Margaret Burbidge
Margaret Burbidge
(1988) Martin Kamen (1989) Gustav Nossal
Gustav Nossal
(1990) Albrecht Fleckenstein
Albrecht Fleckenstein
(1991) Raymond U. Lemieux
Raymond U. Lemieux
(1992) Ali Javan (1993) Sherwood Rowland
Sherwood Rowland
(1994) Herbert H. Jasper (1995) Alec Jeffreys
Alec Jeffreys
(1996) Jean-Marie Ghuysen (1997) Charles R. Goldman (1998) Robert Weinberg (1999) Frank Fenner (2000) Niels Birbaumer (2001) Daniel H. Janzen (2002) Martin Rees
Martin Rees
(2003) Ralph J. Cicerone
Ralph J. Cicerone
(2004) John Hopfield (2005) Ahmed Zewail
Ahmed Zewail
(2006) Fraser Stoddart
Fraser Stoddart
(2007) Ada Yonath
Ada Yonath
(2008) John T. Houghton
John T. Houghton
(2009) Julio Montaner (2010) Geoffrey Ozin (2011) Michael Grätzel
Michael Grätzel
(2012) Paul Nurse
Paul Nurse
(2013) Philip Cohen (2014) Ewine van Dishoeck
Ewine van Dishoeck
(2015) Edward Witten
Edward Witten
(2016) Omar M. Yaghi
Omar M. Yaghi

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 93348818 LCCN: n85180832 ISNI: 0000 0001 1775 5563 SUDOC: 031674372 BNF: cb12284463d (data) BIBSYS: 90513003 MGP: 31293 CiNii: DA0008795X SN