John Griggs Thompson

National Medal of Science

Mathematics And Computer Science

For his profound and lasting contributions to the mathematical sciences, providing fundamental advances for the study of finite simple groups, the inverse Galois problem and connections between group theory and number theory.

For his profound and lasting contributions to the mathematical sciences, providing fundamental advances for the study of finite simple groups, the inverse Galois problem and connections between group theory and number theory.

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Birth
October 13, 1932
Age Awarded
68
Country of Birth
USA
Key Contributions
Abstract Symmetries
Finite Group Theory
Awarded by
Bill Clinton
Education
Yale University
University of Chicago
Areas of Impact
Theory & Foundations
Affiliations
University of Florida
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At 26 years old, John Griggs Thompson used his doctoral thesis to solve a problem that had puzzled mathematicians for nearly double the time he’d been alive.

The achievement, touted in the New York Times, concerned Frobenius’ conjecture, a function of group theory.

Group theory studies structures called “groups,” a central factor in abstract algebra. Following Thompson’s discovery, the field rose to prominence and saw rapid progress in problem-solving, including the classification of finite simple groups.

A finite group is built from a collection of finite simple groups like a Rubik’s cube that can be manipulated into three rows of smaller cubes.

Thompson’s theory of finite groups laid the foundation for their classification, determining that non-elementary simple groups contain an even number of elements – a proof that filled 250 pages.

In addition, Thompson concluded that all finite simple groups belong to standard families, except for 26 sporadic groups that stand alone.

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