Barry M. Simon, the International Business Machines (IBM) Professor of Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Caltech, has been awarded the 2016 Leroy Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) for his "tremendous impact on the education and research of a whole generation of mathematical scientists through his significant research achievements, highly influential books, and mentoring of graduate students and postdocs," according to the prize citation.
In conferring the award, the AMS noted Simon's "career of exceptional achievement," which includes the publication of 333 papers and 16 books. Simon was specifically recognized for proving a number of fundamental results in statistical mechanics and for contributing to the construction of quantum fields in two space‐time dimensions—topics that, the AMS notes, have "grown into major industries"—as well as for his "definitive results" on the general theory of Schrödinger operators, work that is crucial to an understanding of quantum mechanics and that has led to diverse applications, from probability theory to theoretical physics. He has also made fundamental contributions to the theory of orthogonal polynomials and their asymptotics.
"Barry Simon is a powerhouse in mathematical physics and has had an outstanding career which this award attests to," says Vladimir Markovic, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Mathematics. "Caltech is lucky to have him."
"Barry is a driving force in mathematics at Caltech and has had enormous influence as a scholar, a teacher, and a mentor," says Fiona Harrison, the Benjamin M. Rosen Professor of Physics and holder of the Kent and Joyce Kresa Leadership Chair for the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy.
Simon spoke at the International Congress of Mathematics in 1974 and has since given almost every prestigious lecture available in mathematics and physics. He was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005, and was among the inaugural class of AMS fellows in 2012. In 2015, Simon was awarded the International János Bolyai Prize of Mathematics by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, given every five years to honor internationally outstanding works in mathematics, and in 2012, he was given the Henri Poincaré Prize by the International Association of Mathematical Physics. The prize is awarded every three years in recognition of outstanding contributions in mathematical physics and accomplishments leading to novel developments in the field.
Simon received his AB from Harvard College in 1966 and his doctorate in physics from Princeton University in 1970. He held a joint appointment in the mathematics and physics departments at Princeton for the next decade. He first arrived at Caltech as a Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Visiting Scholar in 1980 and joined the faculty permanently in 1981. He became the IBM Professor in 1984.
Written by Kathy Svitil