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Major Math and Science Awards Announced

Leading economist and 'Mozart of math' receive Nemmers prizes

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April 12, 2010 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel
Economist Elhanan Helpman (left), a leading authority on international economics, and Terence Chi-Shen Tao, hailed for unraveling extraordinarily complicated mathematical problems, have received the 2010 Nemmers prizes in economics and mathematics, respectively.
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Economist Elhanan Helpman, a leading authority on international economics, and Terence Chi-Shen Tao, hailed for unraveling extraordinarily complicated mathematical problems, are the recipients of the 2010 Nemmers prizes in economics and mathematics, respectively, Northwestern University announced today.

Each prize carries a $175,000 stipend. The prizes are awarded to scholars who made major contributions to new knowledge or the development of significant new modes of analysis. They are believed to be one of the largest monetary awards in the United States for outstanding achievements in mathematics and economics.

Helpman, the Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade at Harvard University, has been awarded the ninth Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics "for fundamental contributions to the understanding of modern international economics and the effects of political institutions on trade policy and economic growth." 

Tao, a professor of mathematics at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) who has been dubbed the "Mozart of Math," has been awarded the ninth Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics "for mathematics of astonishing breadth, depth and originality." 

"Once again, we are proud to reward such exceptional work with the Nemmers prizes," said Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer. "The prizes are recognized as among the leading awards in economics and mathematics, and, notably, three of the scholars awarded the Nemmers Prizes in Economics went on to receive a Nobel prize."

(Previous winners of Nobel awards are ineligible to receive a Nemmers prize.)

In connection with the awards, Helpman and Tao will deliver public lectures and participate in other scholarly activities at Northwestern during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years.

Tao is well known for a proof, in collaboration with British mathematician Ben J. Green, of the existence of arbitrarily long arithmetic progressions of prime numbers (the Green-Tao theorem).

In 2006, he received a MacArthur Fellowship (nicknamed the genius award) and a Fields Medal, widely considered the top honor a mathematician 40 years of age or under can receive.

Tao was awarded the Fields Medal for his contributions to partial differential equations, combinatorics, harmonic analysis and additive number theory. Tao was cited as "a supreme problem-solver whose spectacular work has had an impact across several mathematical areas...who combines sheer technical power and other-worldly ingenuity for hitting upon new ideas."

In 2007, Tao was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 2008, he became a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences and, in 2009, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2010, he was the co-winner of the King Faisal International Prize in the field of science for his works in mathematics.

A child prodigy, Tao started to learn calculus when he was 7, and when he was 20 earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University. He joined UCLA's faculty that year and was promoted to full professor at age 24.

Helpman is highly cited for his scholarship on international trade, economic growth and the political economy of trade policy. He has done research on how the interaction of lobbying groups and politics shape trade policy and on relationships between international trade and the organizations of firms. He is one of the founders of the new trade theory and endogenous growth theory, which both emphasize economies of scale and imperfect competition.

Helpman has spent much of his career in Israel where, he had been a professor at Tel Aviv University and active in policy debates.

In 1990, Helpman was awarded the Mahalanobis Memorial Medal by the Indian Econometric Society and, in 1991, the Israel Prize for economics.

Helpman received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree, both in economics, from Tel Aviv University in 1969 and 1971, respectively, and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1974.

The Nemmers Prizes are made possible through bequests from the late Erwin E. Nemmers, a former member of the Northwestern University faculty, and his brother the late Frederic E. Nemmers, both of Milwaukee. The prizes are awarded every other year. Previous recipients in economics are Peter A. Diamond (1994), Thomas J. Sargent (1996), Robert J. Aumann (1998), Daniel L. McFadden (2000), Edward C. Prescott (2002), Ariel Rubinstein (2004), Lars Peter Hansen (2006) and Paul R. Milgrom (2008). Previous recipients in mathematics are 

Yuri I. Manin (1994), Joseph B. Keller (1996), John H. Conway (1998), Edward Witten (2000), Yakov G. Sinai (2002), Mikhael Gromov (2004), Robert P. Langlands (2006) and Simon Donaldson (2008)

Erwin Esser Nemmers, who persuaded his brother to join him in making a substantial contribution to Northwestern, served as a member of the faculty of the Kellogg School of Management from 1957 until his retirement in 1986. He and his brother, Frederic E. Nemmers, were principals in a Milwaukee-based, family-owned, church music-publishing house.

Their gifts, totaling $14 million, were designated by Erwin and Frederic Nemmers for the establishment of four endowed professorships in the Kellogg School of Management and the establishment of the Nemmers prizes.

Consistent with the terms of the Nemmers' bequests, the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics (named in honor of the Nemmers' father) and the Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics (named by Erwin in honor of his brother) are designed to recognize "work of lasting significance" in the respective disciplines.

A third award, the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition, was awarded for the first time in 2004-05. Like the economics and mathematics prizes, the music prize is awarded every other year, with a value of $100,000.
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