Martin D. Kruskal
National Medal of Science
Mathematics And Computer Science
For his influence as a leader in nonlinear science for more than two decades as the principal architect of the theory of soliton solutions of nonlinear equations of evolution.
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BirthSeptember 28, 1925
Country of BirthUSA
Key ContributionsCo-Coined The Term Soliton
Awarded byBill Clinton
EducationNew York University
University of Chicago
Areas of ImpactCommunication & Information
Working on a phenomenon that had been observed in the 19th century, mathematician Martin D. Kruskal studied the behavior of a nonlinear wave that is able to pass through an opposing wave of the same type without affecting the energy or direction of either wave, and coined the term “soliton.” Scientists have since found that solitons pass through fiber-optic cables and have important applications in telecommunications.
Earlier in his career, Kruskal's first job with Lyman Spitzer involved working on a classified project called Project Matterhorn, which later became the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory after it was declassified. The purpose of the project was to generate controlled nuclear fusion as a clean, safe source of energy, which required Kruskal’s expertise in mathematical modeling and analysis.
Kruskal is also known for the development of the "Kruskal coordinates" in general relativity, which applied theoretical mathematics to develop a system for describing black holes in space, known as Kruskal-Szekeres coordinates.
By Jennifer Santisi