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Two MIT Professors Win Prestigious Wolf Prize

Published: Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 09, 2013
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Michael Artin and Robert Langer honored for groundbreaking work in mathematics and chemistry.

MIT professors Michael Artin and Robert Langer are among eight recipients worldwide of the 2013 Wolf Prize, the Israel-based Wolf Foundation announced this week.

The prestigious international prizes are awarded annually in five categories, each worth $100,000; Artin and Langer were cited for their contributions in mathematics and chemistry, respectively. More than 30 Wolf Prize recipients have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

Israeli President Shimon Peres will present the prizes in May at a special session hosted by the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

Artin, a professor emeritus of mathematics at MIT, helped introduce and define a number of tools and theories in modern algebraic geometry, including the Artin Stack, which is a generalized version of an algebraic stack. His contributions to the theory of surface singularities introduced several concepts — such as rational singularity and fundamental cycle — that became seminal to the field.

“Artin is one of the main architects of modern algebraic geometry,” the Wolf Foundation said in announcing him as a winner of the Wolf Prize. “His fundamental contributions encompass a bewildering number of areas in this field. … He is one of the great geometers of the 20th century.”

In 2002, Artin won the American Mathematical Society’s annual Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement; in 2005, he was awarded the Harvard Centennial Medal. Artin is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the American Mathematical Society.

Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, focuses on developing new ways to administer drugs to patients. A biomedical engineer, he developed a variety of novel drug-delivery systems based on polymers, including materials that can release drugs continuously over a prolonged period of time. In the 1970s, Langer developed polymers that allowed the large molecules of a protein to pass through membranes in a controlled manner to inhibit angiogenesis, the process by which tumors recruit blood vessels.

“Robert Langer is primarily responsible for innovations in polymer chemistry that have had profound impact on medicine, particularly in the areas of drug delivery and tissue engineering,” the Wolf Foundation said in its announcement.

Last month, Langer was among 23 eminent researchers nationwide to be awarded the United States’ highest honors for scientists, engineers and inventors. He will receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama at a ceremony this year.

Langer is a member of the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Sciences, making him one of only a few people to hold membership in three national academies. Over the years, he has earned more than 200 major awards in science, including the 2006 National Medal of Science, presented by the president of the United States to scientists and engineers who have made important contributions in their fields.

Wolf Prizes have been awarded since 1978 to outstanding scientists and artists “for achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples, irrespective of nationality, race, color, religion, sex or political view.” The prizes are presented annually in agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, and/or physics, as well as in the arts.

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