Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Edward Witten (born August 26, 1951) is a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, son of a physicist specializing in gravitation and general relativity. He received his bachelor's degree from Brandeis University and his Ph.D. from Princeton University. He is currently the Charles Simonyi professor of mathematical physics at the Institute for Advanced Study.
Edward Witten is a mathematical physicist who does research in M-theory, which is a unification of 5 superstring theories and 11-dimensional supergravity. Superstring and M-theory are considered by some physicists to be promising candidates for the "Theory of everything" which would describe all four fundamental physical interactions (gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear) within a single theoretical framework. Such a theory would provide a fundamental link between quantum mechanics and general relativity.Edward Witten has made important contributions to physics and mathematics (especially geometry). Among those who praise him is Sir Michael Atiyah, who said,
"Although he is definitely a physicist, his command of mathematics is rivaled by few mathematicians... Time and again he has surprised the mathematical community by his brilliant application of physical insight leading to new and deep mathematical theorems... he has made a profound impact on contemporary mathematics. In his hands physics is once again providing a rich source of inspiration and insight in mathematics."Witten mainly works on string theory, but has contributed many important insights about gauge theory as well.
Witten delivered an important lecture at the University of Southern California in 1995, in which he first outlined the principles of M-theory. This was the first time in which the 5 existing string theories were described as different aspects of one, more profound idea.
Among the awards Witten has received are the Fields Medal in 1990 and the National Medal of Science (2004). Witten is considered by many string theorists to have sparked what has been called the second revolution in superstring theory. Witten also appeared in the List of TIME Magazine's 100 most influential people of 2004.
Witten is the subject of much admiration by fellow string theorists. Columbia University physicist Brian Greene describes Witten glowingly in the bestseller "The Elegant Universe". Greene writes that Witten is "widely regarded as Einstein's successor in the role of the world's greatest living physicist. Some would go even further and describe him as the greatest physicist of all time."
- Greene, Brian. (1999) The Elegant Universe, Vintage Books. (2003) p. 274.
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