Bill Thurston

By Mark Trodden | August 22, 2012 10:41 am

Just a quick note here to say how sad I was to hear (via Terry Tao’s blog) of the death yesterday of Bill Thurston, whose work, particularly on 3-manifolds, endeared him to mathematicians and physicists and resulted in the 1982 Fields medal. I’m certainly no expert on his work, but I encountered it first thirteen years or so ago when I was working on the idea that compact hyperbolic manifolds might provide interesting examples of the extra dimensional spaces used in large extra dimension models.

I found the whole area to be fascinating, and it was particularly interesting for a non-expert because the GeomView program, produced by the Geometry Center (which Thurston had been involved with, and which had just closed) allowed great visualizations of complicated manifolds. They also produced wonderful videos, like this one (that Tao also links to) of Thurston’s method for everting the sphere.

I never met Thurston, but greatly enjoyed the small part of his work that I’ve used, and am very sorry he won’t be around to contribute more.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mathematics, Science
  • Godfrey Miller

    He wrote a great essay concerning the purpose of mathematics:

  • Faizan sarwar

    End of the great mathematician

  • Chris

    Wow, now that’s what they should have on those PBS kids shows. They would actually learn something useful.

  • Pingback: Geometry as art and maths |

  • Ralph Haygood

    I attended a graduate course Thurston taught about 15 years ago at U. C. Davis. What struck me most about him was his impatience with formalism. He seemed happiest when he could explain an idea by drawing a diagram or holding up a physical model made of poster board or some such thing. I don’t think I’ve encountered another professional mathematician whose approach to his subject was so intuitive.

  • Pingback: News and links for late August 2012 « The Outer Hoard()


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About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.


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