Barry Simon, the IBM Professor of Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Caltech, has been awarded the International János Bolyai Prize of Mathematics for 2015 by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The prize is given every five years and honors internationally outstanding works in mathematics. As the award was discontinued for almost a century following World War I, Simon, whose work focuses on mathematical physics, is its sixth recipient.
In particular, Simon is being recognized for his book titled Orthogonal Polynomials on the Unit Circle, in which he connects two important fields of mathematics: the theory of orthogonal polynomials and operator theory. Orthogonal polynomials are important in solving, expanding, and interpreting solutions to many kinds of differential equations. Operator theory has fundamental applications in the study of solutions to the Schrödinger equation, which is crucial to an understanding of quantum mechanics. Simon's connection between the fields has led to diverse applications, from probability theory to theoretical physics.
Simon first arrived at Caltech as a Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Visiting Scholar in 1980, joining the faculty permanently in 1981. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also received the Poincaré Prize in 2012, named for mathematician Henri Poincaré. Poincaré was, incidentally, the first recipient of the Bolyai Prize in 1905.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences President László Lovász will award Simon with the prize at a public session of the academy's Section of Mathematics conference in the second half of 2015.