Vaughan Jones gives Brauer Lectures

The 2013 Brauer Lectures were given earlier this week by Vaughan Jones, Professor of Mathematics at Vanderbilt University and Emeritus Professor at Berkeley. Jones’ three lectures on “Von Neumann Algebras” opened Monday, March 4th with an introductory lecture for a general mathematical audience, followed by more detailed explanations in subsequent lectures on Tuesday and Wednesday about how the subject has developed.

Vaughan Jones is famous for his surprising discovery of the so-called Jones polynomial, a fundamental invariant in knot theory that arose from work in the apparently unrelated subject of Von Neumann algebras. This work has revolutionized the ancient subject of knots, and has led as well to new developments in physics and biology. It was no surprise when Jones was awarded the Fields Medal in 1990 at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Kyoto. A native of New Zealand, Jones received his Docteurès Sciences in Mathematics under André Haefliger at the University of Geneva in 1979. He came to the US in 1980, holding positions at UCLA and Penn before becoming Professor of Mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1985. He has been Professor at Vanderbilt since 2011. Besides his Fields Medal, Jones has won the New Zealand Government Science Medal and the Onsager Medal. His honors include election as Fellow of the Royal Society and U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and honorary membership in the London Mathematical Society. Long active on scientific advisory and editorial boards, he was in 2004 elected vice-president of the American Mathematical Society.

Alfred Brauer (1894–1985) had a profound impact on the Mathematics Department at UNC. Born in Germany, he held a position at the University of Berlin until the advent of the Nazis during the 1930s. He fled the country in 1939, accepting Hermann Weyl’s invitation to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He came to North Carolina in 1942, teaching here until his retirement in 1966. Alfred Brauer was honored by the University with the award of a Kenan professorship in 1959, the Tanner Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching in 1965, and an honorary doctor of legal letters degree in 1972.

To honor the memory of Alfred Brauer and to recognize his many contributions to the Mathematics Department at UNC, the Alfred Brauer Fund was established by the Department of Mathematics in 1984 on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday and the Alfred Brauer Lectures were begun in 1985. The most recent Brauer Lecturers have been Peter Sarnak, János Kollár, Andrew Majda, Jeff Cheeger, Shing-Tung Yau, Percy Deift, Charles Fefferman, Claire Voisin, Alex Eskin, Gérard Laumon, and Alexander Lubotzky.

From L to R: Department Chair Rich McLaughlin, Brauer Lecturer Vaughan Jones (sporting an appropriately local t-shirt), and Brauer Lectures organizer Jon Wahl