Professor David Kazhdan
Professor David KazhdanCourtesy of his family

The 2020 Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences is being awarded in equal shares to Professor Alexander Beilinson of the University of Chicago and David Kazhdan, Professor of Mathematics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “for their huge influence on and profound contributions to representation theory, as well as many other areas of mathematics,” The Shaw Prize’s website announces. This is the first time that the prestigious award has been won by an Israeli citizen.

Beilinson and Kazhdan are also notable for the great influence they have had on many other fields of mathematics such as arithmetic geometry, K-theory, conformal field theory, number theory, algebraic and complex geometry, group theory, and algebra more generally. Their contributions include proving theorems and creating conceptual tools that have proved essential to the work of other mathematicians.

The Shaw Prize, based in Hong Kong, was established in 2002 by media entrepreneur Sir Run Run Shaw to reward individuals who have made significant and original breakthroughs in the fields of astronomy, life science and medicine, and mathematical sciences. Each year nominations are made from September and the winners are announced the following summer, with the prizes – which come with a cash award of $1.2 million – presented in autumn. The intention is to honor scientists whose ground-breaking work contributes to “furthering societal progress, enhancing quality of life, and enriching humanity's spiritual civilization.”

Professor David Kazhdan was born in 1946 in Moscow, Russia and is currently Professor of Mathematics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. He earned his PhD from Moscow State University, Russia, before emigrating to the United States, where he took up a position at Harvard University. In 2002, he emigrated to Israel and has been Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem since that time. He is an Orthodox Jew and is married with four children.

In March of this year, another Israeli became a “first” to win a prestigious international prize. Hillel Furstenberg was awarded the Abel Prize by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, “for pioneering the use of methods from probability and dynamics in group theory, number theory and combinatorics.”

The Abel Prize was established by the Government of Norway in 2001 in order “to give the mathematicians their own equivalent of a Nobel Prize” and carries with it a cash award of 7.5 million Norwegian Kroners ($834,000 USD).