James G. Arthur to Receive the 2017 AMS Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement


photo credit: Diana Tyszko

The Department is proud to announce that Professor James Arthur has been awarded the 2017 AMS Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement.

The official AMS Press Release follows:


Providence, RI—James Grieg Arthur will receive the 2017 AMS Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement “for his fundamental contributions to number theory and harmonic analysis, and in particular for his proof of the Arthur-Selberg trace formula.” Arthur is a University Professor and holds the Ted Mossman Chair in Mathematics at the University of Toronto.

James G. Arthur has made deep and lasting contributions to mathematics. The pinnacle of his work is the Arthur-Selberg trace formula, which elucidates profound connections between properties of numbers on the one hand, and geometric shapes on the other. Building on the pioneering work of Atle Selberg from the 1950s, Arthur created a whole mathematical framework and introduced many major tools. The Arthur-Selberg trace formula is developed in 16 long and difficult research papers that Arthur published between 1974 and 1988. His work on the trace formula, which continues to this day, stands at the center of a highly active research area to which many mathematicians the world over are contributing.

This work fits into a larger effort known as the Langlands Program, which Arthur’s doctoral advisor, Robert P. Langlands, inaugurated in the late 1960s and expanded in the 1970s. The Langlands Program posits a series of deep and far-reaching connections among several parts of mathematics that seem, at first glance, to be unrelated. The program has inspired an enormous amount of mathematical research, in which James G. Arthur has been one of the central figures. His work has had and will continue to have an enormous impact on several branches of mathematics.

Today, at the age of 72, Arthur continues to produce research at the highest level. Because his area of research is often considered to be among the most technically forbidding in mathematics, Arthur has worked hard to make the area more accessible by producing high-quality expository works, which have in turn stimulated more interest and new work. An example is his article “Harmonic Analysis and Group Representations,” which appeared in the January 2000 issue of the Notices of the AMS.

Arthur has a strong commitment to education. This can be seen, for example, in remarks he presented as AMS president, on the occasion of the awarding of the 2005 Abel Prize to mathematician Peter D. Lax. In his remarks, Arthur noted the stimulation such prizes provide to research at the highest levels. The prize “is of enormous benefit for other reasons as well,” he said. “The effective teaching of mathematics is essential for the future well-being of society. Talented students need to be encouraged to pursue the subject. It is equally important that young men and women see the teaching of mathematics as an honourable calling. Public recognition [of Abel Laureates] resonates the world over [and] becomes a source of pride and inspiration for students and teachers alike.” The full text of his remarks appeared in the August 2005 issue of the Notices of the AMS.

Over the course of his career, Arthur has received many honors. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the AMS. He received the Canada Gold Medal in Science and Engineering in 1999, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Ottawa in 2002, and the Wolf Prize in Mathematics in 2015. He has given several addresses at International Congresses of Mathematicians, including a Plenary Lecture at the 2014 Congress and a Plenary Lecture at the first Mathematical Congress of the Americas in 2013.

Arthur’s dedication to cultivating and supporting scholarship and research has led to his appointment to several senior administrative roles internationally. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the International Mathematics Union (1991-1998) and the Academic Trustee for Mathematics on the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Advanced Study (1997-2007). He also served as president of the AMS from 2005-2007. One of his lasting legacies as AMS president is the establishment of the AMS Einstein Public Lecture in Mathematics, delivered annually by an outstanding mathematician with a flair for communicating with the general public.

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.

A photograph of Arthur is available upon request to paoffice@ams.org.

Mike Breen and Annette Emerson
Public Awareness Officers
American Mathematical Society
201 Charles Street
Providence, RI 02904
Email: paoffice@ams.org

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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.