Groundbreaking mathematical theories from a relatively unknown man
Langlands, a Canadian, is one of the world’s great mathematicians. His universe is the outer limits of pure mathematics, a rarefied realm where abstract objects exist, infinity is corralled and symmetry reigns.
In 1967, as a young professor at Princeton University, he revolutionized the ancient discipline. He discovered patterns in highly esoteric objects called automorphic forms and motives, and he restructured mathematics with two dazzling theories.
They indicated what mathematician Edward Frenkel calls “the source code of all mathematics,” and are credited with linking math’s main branches — number theory (once called arithmetic), harmonic analysis, which includes calculus, and geometry.
Russian-born mathematician Edward Frenkel, a math superstar and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, calls Canadian Robert Langlands "a modern-day Einstein." (Elizabeth Lippman)
To mathematicians, this is mind-blowing stuff. The branches deal with completely different things: number theory is about, yes, numbers, harmonic analysis studies motion and geometry deals with shapes. They may as well be different planets.
“Suddenly, you have a teleportation device that enables you to go — boom — from one place to another,” says Frenkel, a Russian-born mathematician at the University of California at Berkeley, describing the math-warping impact of Langlands’ conjectures....