© 2022 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Mathematician Is The First Woman To Win Abel Prize


Do not try telling Karen Uhlenbeck that math is a subject just for boys.


Uhlenbeck is a mathematician. And this week, she became the recipient of the Abel Prize.

MARTIN: The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters gives this award. It's the closest thing there is to a Nobel Prize for mathematics. It has been awarded since 2003, and Uhlenbeck is the first woman to receive it.

KAREN UHLENBECK: I'm really, timewise, in the first generation of women who could actually become mathematicians and obtain academic positions and have a regular life in mathematics. And I'm in the first generation of women who could do this, so I feel very lucky.

MARTIN: Here's a layman's description of some of Uhlenbeck's work. She's focused on what's called the minimal surfaces of soap bubbles. She used her study to help pioneer a field known as geometric analysis.

INSKEEP: If that all sounds a little hard to follow, well, that's the point. She once said, I find that I am bored with anything I understand. Having come to understand the problems that she attacks, she only wishes she could better explain something about math.

UHLENBECK: Ah, that it's beautiful - I wish I could get that across, but I'm not very good at it.

INSKEEP: The King of Norway presents the prize to Karen Uhlenbeck in May.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make non-profit journalism available for everyone.