American mathematician John Milnor was recently the recipient of the 2011 Abel Prize in mathematics. The Niels Henrik Abel Memorial Fund was established on January 1, 2002 with the object of creating an “international award for outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics.” The recipient is rewarded almost $1 million from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters which is presented to them by the king of Norway. Some mathematicians compare the magnitude of this award to something short of winning a Nobel Peace Prize.
The Abel Prize writes, “John Milnor’s profound ideas and fundamental discoveries have largely shaped the mathematical landscape of the second half of the 20th century. All of Milnor’s work display features of great research: profound insights, vivid imagination, striking surprises and supreme beauty.” Among his achievements are the many influential books he’s written and the numerous mathematical concepts that have been named after him, such as Milnor fibration and Milnor exotic spheres to name a few.
NPR reporter Robert Siegel recently spoke to math and science writer Julie Rehmeyer on John Milnor’s award and for her help to explain one of Milnor’s most well-known works: the exotic seven-dimensional sphere. Listen below -