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Leon Simon to receive 2017 AMS Steele Prize for seminal contribution to research

November 14, 2016

Providence, RI---Leon Simon of Stanford University will receive the 2017 AMS Leroy P. Steele Prize for Seminal Contribution to Research "for his fundamental contributions to Geometric Analysis and in particular for his 1983 paper `Asymptotics for a Class of Non-Linear Evolution Equations, with Applications to Geometric Problems', published in the Annals of Mathematics."

Geometry is a branch of mathematics that studies properties of shapes. Analysis is a branch that includes calculus and that focuses on functions and equations that describe change, in particular, differential equations. The two branches interact in the area of geometric analysis, which brings tools from geometry to bear on problems in differential equations, or vice versa. Many of the problems and methods in geometric analysis have their origins in physics, and the ideas developed in geometric analysis have in turn been applied in that field.

Simon's prize-winning paper studies singularities that occur in certain types of geometric objects. A singularity may be thought of as a point, crease, or other localized disruption in the smoothness of a geometric object. Simon's approach recasts the original geometric problem as a problem of differential equations, to which sophisticated analysis techniques can be applied. He also shows how his approach can be used to unify and generalize earlier work on related problems.

Simon's strikingly original paper has provided powerful tools of far-reaching impact, which have since been applied or adapted to address questions arising in a variety of contexts, ranging from differential geometry to fluid dynamics and superconductivity.

"Leon Simon's paper has had extraordinary impact on analysis, geometry and applied mathematics," the prize citation says, noting that hundreds of papers have been written based on the insights contained in the paper. "Without a doubt Simon's ideas will continue to be applied and further developed in future work."

Simon is the recipient of an earlier AMS prize, the Bocher Prize, which honors an outstanding contribution to analysis. It was awarded to Simon in 1994 "for his profound contributions toward understanding the structure of singular sets for solutions of variational problems."

Born in 1945 in Australia, Leon Simon received his bachelor's degree (1967) and PhD (1971) at the University of Adelaide. He taught at several universities in Australia and the United States before taking, in 1986, his present position as professor of mathematics at Stanford University.

Simon was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences (1983), of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1994), of the Royal Society (2003), and of the AMS (2012). He was awarded a Sloan Fellowship (1975), an Australian Mathematical Society Medal (1983), and a Humboldt Award (2005). He gave an invited lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 1983. In the course of his career, he has supervised the thesis work of 18 graduate students.

Presented annually, the AMS Steele Prize is one of the highest distinctions in mathematics. The prize will be awarded Thursday, January 5, 2017, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta.
Find out more about AMS prizes and awards at

Founded in 1888 to further mathematical research and scholarship, today the American Mathematical Society fulfills its mission through programs and services that promote mathematical research and its uses, strengthen mathematical education, and foster awareness and appreciation of mathematics and its connections to other disciplines and to everyday life.

American Mathematical Society

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