This year's half-million-dollar Crafoord Prize will go to one of the world's top mathematicians, Alain Connes, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on 25 January. The Crafoord Prize pays tribute to fields not covered by the Nobel Prizes, and will be awarded by the King of Sweden at a 26 September ceremony in Stockholm.
Connes, a professor at College de France and Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques near Paris, is being honored for his "penetrating work" on the theory of operator algebra and his role as a founder of the new field of noncommutative geometry.
Connes, 53, is a veritable Chopin of math, hailed for the power, richness, depth, and innovativeness of his work. He's an "extraordinarily original" thinker, says mathematician Enrico Bombieri of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1983, Connes won the Fields Medal--mathematics' biggest honor--for solving major problems in operator algebra, which plays a central part in describing quantum mechanics. He then moved into noncommutative geometry, where he has created new tools for theoretical physics, as well as for probing math's most famous unsolved problem: the Riemann hypothesis (Science, 26 May 2000, p. 1328). One reviewer of Connes's 1994 book, Noncommutative Geometry, said his work produced a "feeling of intense jubilation."