The Laureates

Copyright © Klaus Tschira Stiftung / Peter Badge

Alain Connes

Born 1 April 1947 in Darguignan near Cannes (France)

Fields Medal (1982) for numerous contributions to the theory of operator Algebras and its applications

Connes grew up as the son of a police chief in Marseille. He studied at the École Normale Supérieure (1966 to 1970) and received his Ph.D. at the CNRS in 1973. His thesis was supervised by Jacque Dixmier. As a scientific member of the institute, he worked at the CNRS from 1970 to 1974. In 1975 Connes spent a year as visiting scientist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. In 1976 he was appointed first assistant professor, then professor at the University of Paris VI (until 1980). In the year 1978/79, Connes become fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Since 1979 (until today), he is Léon Motchane Professor at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques in Bures-sur-Yvette. In 1981, Connes was appointed Director of Research at the CNRS (until 1984). Since 1984, Connes is also a professor of analysis and geometry at the Collège de France and professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Alain Connes has received a variety of awards. Including: the Peccot-Vimon price of the Collège de France (1976), the Ampère Prize (1980) and the Aimé Berthé Price of the Academie des Sciences (1982), the Clay Research Award (2000), the Crafoord Prize (2001), and the CNRS’s Gold Medal (2004). The mathematician is a member of several scientific academies, including the Academie des Sciences (since 1980), the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences (since 1980), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (since 1990) and the National Academy of Sciences (since 1997 ). The Queen’s University, Kingston (1979), the University of Oslo (1999), the Free University of Brussels (2010) and other universities have awarded Connes a honorary doctorate.

Classical geometry deals with the position and the motion of points in space. A significant generalization of this concept has its origins around the year 1900 where the idea came up to replace the dots by functions. In this way the “functional spaces” emerged and became a basis of quantum mechanics. In these spaces the functions interact with each other, in a “commutative” way: It is not important, in which order the interactions are taking place.

Alain Connes became already in the 1970s and 1980s famous by a number of works in the field of non-commutative algebras – for instance, he he became known with his doctoral thesis from 1973 in which he classified the type III factors of (non-commutative) Neumann algebras. In the early 1980s Connes began to investigate what happens if one extends the concept of geometry and allows non-commutative interactions of the “points” in geometry. With his book “Noncommutative Geometry”, he laid in 1994 the foundation stone for this completely new theory, which has now not only wide application in quantum physics and string theory, but also in the theory of operator algebras, the index theory of elliptic operators, algebraic and differential topology and number theory, among others.