Edward Witten wins 2023 Hamburg Prize for Theoretical Physics
12 Nov 2023
American physicist, professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Edward Witten has been awarded the Hamburg Prize for Theoretical Physics.
The award recognises his vital contributions “to a unified mathematical description of fundamental forces of nature” and notes Witten’s research on string and quantum theory impact on understanding of space, time, matter, and the structure of the cosmos.
“Edward Witten’s work paved the way for the development of string theory and quantum field theory. Furthermore, his extraordinary ability to apply abstract concepts from physics to mathematics places him as a towering figure at the crossroads of the two disciplines,” said Sabine Kunst, Chairwoman of the Joachim Herz Foundation.
The €137,036 presented to the winner makes the Hamburg one of Germany’s highest monetary value awards. It also comes with a teaching and research residence in the city, for which Edward Witten will start in 2024. His research is closely linked already to Hamburg, in particular to Science City Hamburg Bahrenfeld’s Hamburg Center for Mathematical Physics.
Science Senator Katharina Fegebank: “Each year, the Hamburg Prize for Theoretical Physics attracts world-class researchers to Hamburg. The prize stands for innovation, open-mindedness and interdisciplinary work. Edward Witten’s insights are closely connected to the research undertaken at Science City Hamburg Bahrenfeld.”
Witten’s work has long contributed to the development of a unified theory of physics whereby all the forces and building blocks of the universe, all four fundamental forces of nature can be described within a unified quantum string theory. In 1995, he proposed a method to bring together all five variants of string theory as different limiting cases of one underlying theory. Witten has also been the recipient of many awards, including being the first physicist to ever receive the Fields Medal in 1990.
The Joachim Herz Foundation has been awarding the Hamburg Prize for Theoretical Physics since 2010, together with the Wolfgang Pauli Centre of DESY and Hamburg University, the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY and the two clusters of excellence at the university – CUI: Advanced Imaging of Matter and Quantum Universe.
The amount of the prize money has an extra significance; it is a reference to Sommerfeld's fine-structure constant that features in theoretical physics.