Phillip Griffiths, a professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, has been awarded the Chern Medal by the International Mathematical Union at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Seoul, South Korea.
The Chern Medal, established in 2010 in honor of mathematician Shiing-Shen Chern, is awarded every four years in recognition of outstanding and sustained achievements in the field of mathematics.
Griffiths, whose work has stimulated a wide range of advances in mathematics over the past 50 years, was awarded the medal by the global mathematics professional organization for his groundbreaking work in complex geometry. The award was presented to Griffiths by the President of Korea, Park Geun-hye.
The medal includes a $500,000 award. Griffiths said he will donate half of the prize money to the African Mathematics Millennium Science Initiative, a network of mathematics research, training and promotion throughout Africa.
“This recognition is especially meaningful to me because of my personal association with Chern, who was my mentor, collaborator and friend for more than 40 years,” Griffiths said. “He was a gifted teacher, and was generous with his time and knowledge. It is enormously gratifying to be able to honor his legacy by supporting a new generation of mathematicians in an environment where opportunities for research and training have been scarce.”
Griffiths is recognized as a singular figure in mathematics who has made significant contributions to the field, most notably in algebraic geometry and differential geometry. Griffiths and his collaborators initiated the theory of variation of Hodge structure, which has come to play a central role in many aspects of algebraic geometry. In addition to algebraic geometry, he has made contributions to geometric function theory and the geometry of partial differential equations. His insights on a variety of problems in real and complex geometry, as well as his leadership and mentoring of many of the world’s leading mathematicians, have created new areas of research and have helped to form connections across the field.
A former director of the Institute from 1991 to 2003, Griffiths chairs the science initiative group at the Institute, which fosters science in the developing world through programs such as the Regional Initiative in Science and Education. The program prepares doctoral and master’s degree level scientists and engineers in sub-Saharan Africa through university-based research and training networks in selected disciplines. Its primary emphasis is on training new faculty to teach in African universities and upgrading the qualifications of current faculty.
Many of Griffiths’ achievements were inspired and influenced by Chern. Griffiths’ interest in science in developing countries was initiated by an extensive visit to China in 1980, arranged by Chern. A former member in the Institute’s School of Mathematics, Chern described his time at the Institute as decisive in his career.