John W. Milnor

National Medal of Science

Mathematics And Computer Science

For clever and ingenious approaches in topology which have solved long outstanding problems and opened new exciting areas in this active branch of mathematics.

For clever and ingenious approaches in topology which have solved long outstanding problems and opened new exciting areas in this active branch of mathematics.

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Birth
February 20, 1931
Age Awarded
35
Country of Birth
USA
Key Contributions
Proof Of The Existence Of A 7-Dimensional Sphere
K-Theory
Awarded by
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Education
Princeton University
Areas of Impact
Theory & Foundations
Affiliations
Princeton University
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If geniuses thrive on clutter, John Milnor has a lot to work with. His office – once described as a “maze of papers and notes stacked feet high atop his desk and neighboring couch” – has hosted countless breakthroughs in topology, the study of what happens to the properties of geometric shapes when they are twisted or disfigured.

Milnor, a professor at Stony Brook University, demonstrated proof of the existence of the 7-dimensional sphere. From his discovery emerged the field of differential topology, which applies mathematical concepts to studying manifolds.

This accomplishment earned Milnor the Abel Prize for “profound ideas and fundamental discoveries have largely shaped the mathematical landscape of the second half of the 20th century.”

“I’ve never had much of a record as to predicting what will happen next,” he said in 2011. “I just tend to sit back and try to learn what’s happening and enjoy it.”

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