Edward Witten: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Edward Witten

Born August 26, 1951 (1951-08-26) (age 58)
Baltimore, Maryland
Nationality American
Fields Theoretical physicist
Institutions Institute for Advanced Study
Alma mater Brandeis University, Princeton University
Doctoral advisor David Gross
Doctoral students Cumrun Vafa, Eva Silverstein, Shamit Kachru, Sergei Gukov
Known for string theory, M-theory, quantum field theory
Notable awards Fields Medal (1990)
Henri Poincaré Prize (2006)
Crafoord Prize (2008)

Edward Witten (born August 26, 1951) is an American theoretical physicist with a focus on mathematical physics. He is a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study. He is a leading researcher in superstring theory and winner of the highest honor in mathematics, the Fields Medal.


Birth and education

Witten was born in Baltimore, Maryland to a Jewish family, the son of Lorraine W. Witten and Louis Witten, a theoretical physicist specializing in gravitation and general relativity. He received his bachelor's degree in history (with a minor in linguistics) from Brandeis University. Witten planned to become a political journalist, and published articles in The New Republic and The Nation. He worked briefly for George McGovern's presidential campaign. Then, he attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison for one semester as an economics graduate student before dropping out. He then returned to academia, enrolling in applied mathematics at Princeton University before shifting departments and receiving a Ph.D. in physics in 1976 under David Gross, the 2004 Nobel laureate in Physics.

Academic career

After completing his PhD, he worked at Harvard University as a Junior Fellow and at Princeton as a professor. He was a Professor of Physics at Princeton University from 1980 to 1987. He also was briefly at Caltech for two years from 1999 to 2001. He is currently the Charles Simonyi Professor of Mathematical Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

Witten has the highest h-index (110) of any living physicist.[1][2]

Research and achievements

Witten has made extensive contributions to theoretical physics, in work that has spawned a large number of highly mathematical results. He has been active primarily in quantum field theory and string theory and in related areas of topology and geometry. His many contributions include a simplified proof of the positive energy theorem involving spinors in general relativity, his work relating supersymmetry and Morse theory, his introduction of topological quantum field theory and related work on mirror symmetry and supersymmetric gauge theories and his conjecture of the existence of M-theory.

Witten was awarded the Fields Medal[3][4] by the International Mathematical Union in 1990, becoming the first physicist to win the prize. Sir Michael Atiyah said of Witten, "Although he is definitely a physicist, his command of mathematics is rivaled by few mathematicians... Time and again he has surprised the mathematical community by a brilliant application of physical insight leading to new and deep mathematical theorems... he 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."[5] One such example of his impact on pure mathematics is his framework for understanding the Jones polynomial using Chern–Simons theory. This had far reaching implications on low-dimensional topology and led to quantum invariants such as the Witten–Reshetikhin–Turaev invariants.

Witten is widely known as “the most brilliant physicist of his generation”,[6] and "one of the world's greatest living physicists, perhaps even Einstein's successor".[7] In 1995, he suggested the existence of M-theory at a conference at the University of Southern California and used it to explain a number of previously observed dualities sparking a flurry of new research in string theory called the second superstring revolution.

Personal life

Witten is married to Chiara Nappi, a professor of physics at Princeton University. They have two daughters, Ilana and Daniela, and one son, Raphael (Rafi). His brother, Matt Witten, is a screenwriter and producer for several popular TV series including L.A. Law and House.

Awards and honors

Witten has been honored with numerous awards including a MacArthur Grant (1982), a Fields Medal (1990), the National Medal of Science[8] (2002), Pythagoras Award[1] (Croton, 2005), the Henri Poincaré Prize (2006) and the Crafoord Prize (2008). Pope Benedict XVI appointed Witten as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (2006). He also appeared in the list of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people of 2004. In 2000, he was awarded the Nemmers Prize in Mathematics.

See also


  1. ^ Philip Ball, Index aims for fair ranking of scientists, Nature 436, 900 (18 August 2005)
  2. ^ The H-Index: The Hot Topic in Information Science, Times Higher Education, 13 March 2008
  3. ^ "On the work of Edward Witten" (when being awarded the Field's medal)
  5. ^ Atiyah, Michael (2005). Michael Atiyah: Collected Works: Volume 6. Oxford Science Publications. pp. 209,212. ISBN 978-0198530992.  
  6. ^ The Man Who Led the Second Superstring Revolution, Discover Magazine, 13 November 2008
  7. ^ The Elegant Universe: Welcome to the 11th Dimension, PBS NOVA transcript
  8. ^ "Edward Witten", The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details.

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Edward Witten (born August 26, 1951) is an American theoretical physicist and professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, who is widely known as “the most brilliant physicist of his generation.” He is a leading researcher in superstring theory. In 1990, Witten won the Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in pure mathematics.


  • Even before string theory, especially as physics developed in the 20th century, it turned out that the equations that really work in describing nature with the most generality and the greatest simplicity are very elegant and subtle.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address