National Medal of Science
Mathematics And Computer Science
For his contributions to the field of mathematics, which fundamentally changed algebraic geometry, and for connecting mathematics to other disciplines such as computer vision and neurobiology.
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BirthJune 11, 1937
Country of BirthEngland
Key ContributionsAlgebraic Geometry
Awarded byBarack Obama
Areas of ImpactCommunication & Information
One of the world’s most celebrated mathematicians, David Mumford’s pioneering work has brought fundamental change to algebraic geometry. Mumford is credited with developing geometric invariant theory and his work has become a key component in the study of geometric structures and string theory.
His work has also been groundbreaking in pattern theory, computer vision and a number of other fields.
“The thrilling part of mathematics is the sense that you are an explorer,’’ Mumford said. That exploration develops concepts that “are linked by marvelous patterns.’’
Mumford recalled that as a child he gravitated more toward engineering and physics than math. But at Harvard he found the math got “more and more interesting and more and more exciting,’’ while physics interested him less.
Mumford would go on to earn a doctorate from Harvard in 1961.
He has been the recipient of the prestigious Fields Medal and the Wolf Prize, and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society.
He has taught at Harvard and joined Brown University in 1996, where he is professor emeritus of applied mathematics. His work in neurobiology helped spur Brown’s interdisciplinary Brain Science Program.
By Bob Warren