Crafoord Laureates discovered the solar wind and solved mathematical problems
The man who discovered the solar wind, Eugene Parker, and one of mathematics’ great problem-solvers, Enrico Bombieri, will receive this year’s Crafoord Prize in astronomy and mathematics, respectively. The Crafoord Prize is worth six million Swedish krona and is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in partnership with the Crafoord Foundation in Lund.
The Parker Solar Probe is currently on its way to the sun. It was launched by NASA in 2018 and its first results were reported just before Christmas. This probe is the first to be named after a living person – Eugene N. Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, USA.
Eugene Parker is responsible for several fundamental discoveries about the gases that surround the sun and other stars. He has also developed the theory of how the solar wind arises and how magnetic fields arise and change in space. When he initially presented his theories, over fifty years ago, they were strongly challenged, but were later confirmed through observations from spacecrafts.
Eugene Parker was the first person to realise that the sun is not in equilibrium, as was previously thought. Quite the opposite, it releases mass; the charged gas of ions and electrons that makes up the sun’s “atmosphere” is expanding as a solar wind that stretches throughout our planetary system. His ideas are also the foundation for all the forecasts about the space weather, which can disrupt satellites and cause power outages here on Earth.
He will now receive the Crafoord Prize in Astronomy “for pioneering and fundamental studies of the solar wind and magnetic fields from stellar to galactic scales”.
Eugene Parker was stunned into silence when he was told about the award:
“It took my breath away. I didn´t do anything for a few minutes. I of course knew about the Crafoord Prize, so I was surprised, pleasantly so.”
Passionate about number theory
At the same time Enrico Bombieri from the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, USA, will receive the Crafoord Prize in Mathematics “for outstanding and influential contributions in all the major areas of mathematics, particularly number theory, analysis and algebraic geometry”.
Enrico Bombieri belongs to an increasingly rare group of mathematicians who can solve problems in almost all areas of mathematics. However, his greatest passion has always been number theory, which is the study of integers. He was just 16 years old when he published his first work in number theory and among other things, he is a leading expert on the Riemann hypothesis on the distribution of prime numbers.
Enrico Bombieri has made significant contributions in algebra, advanced geometry and complex analysis. He has also contributed to solving Bernstein’s problem. This is a variation of Plateau’s problem, about how to mathematically describe the shape of the soap film that forms when a wire frame is dipped into a soap solution.
Enrico Bombieri has visited Sweden and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Institut Mittag-Leffler on numerous occasions. He was delighted to discover that he has been awarded the Crafoord Prize in Mathematics.
“It came as a complete surprise. I have received a few prizes before, but I’m especially pleased with this one because of my connection with Swedish mathematicians”, he commented on learning of the prize.
FACTS about the prize
The Crafoord Prize is awarded in partnership between the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Crafoord Foundation in Lund. The Academy is responsible for selecting the Laureates. The disciplines, which change every year, are mathematics and astronomy, geosciences, biosciences and polyarthritis (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis). The prize in polyarthritis is awarded only when scientific progress in this field has been such that an award is justified. The prize disciplines are chosen as a complement to the Nobel Prizes.
This year’s Laureates in mathematics and astronomy each receive six million Swedish krona.