Peter Lax

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Peter Lax (1969)

Peter David Lax (born May 1, 1926 in Budapest ) is a Hungarian mathematician and recipient of the Wolf Prize for Mathematics in 1987 and the Abel Prize in 2005. He works at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University .


As a teenager, Peter D. Lax and his family had to emigrate to the United States in 1941, fleeing the National Socialists , where he attended Stuyvesant High School in New York City and began studying mathematics at New York University (Bachelor 1947). After having worked briefly on the Manhattan Project , where he worked in collaboration with John von Neumann on the programming of the calculating machines available at the time, he received his doctorate in 1949 under Kurt Friedrichs at New York University, at the newly founded there by Richard Courant Institute for Applied Mathematics. The title of the doctoral thesis was Nonlinear System of Hyperbolic Partial Differential Equations in Two Independent Variables . From 1950 to 1958 he worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory and has been a professor at New York University since then. There he was, among other things, director of the Courant Institute. In 1959 he became a Sloan Research Fellow .

Since 1948 he was married to the mathematician Anneli Cahn , who did her doctorate under Courant and with whom he also published an analysis textbook.

In the 1970s, he was the director of the New York University data center. A CDC 6600 computer that he had bought for the university from the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was rescued by him and some colleagues in 1970 when an anarchist group of students ( Transcendental Students ) threatened to set it on fire as part of the anti-Vietnam war protests . In 1982 he published the Lax Report, which campaigned for the increased expansion of supercomputer centers in the USA.

His doctoral students include Ami Harten , Barbara Keyfitz , Alexandre Chorin , Reuben Hersh , Burton Wendroff , Jeffrey Rauch, and one of his post-graduate students was James Sethian .

Honors and memberships

He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences , since 1966 the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and since 1988 a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences . In 1996 he was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society .

In 1975 he received the Norbert Wiener Prize . In 1992 he received the Leroy P. Steele Prize of the American Mathematical Society and in 1987 the Wolf Prize . In 2005 he was awarded the Abel Prize for his fundamental contributions to the theory and application of partial differential equations and their numerical solution. In 1986 he received the National Medal of Science and in 2013 the Lomonosov gold medal .

In 1983 he gave a plenary lecture at the ICM in Warsaw ( Problems solved and unsolved concerning linear and nonlinear partial differential equations ), in 1970 he was invited speaker at the ICM in Nice ( Nonlinear partial differential equations of evolution ) and in 1966 in Moscow ( Scattering theory with Ralph Phillips ).

He has multiple honorary doctorates , for example, the University of Pennsylvania awarded him an honorary doctorate in May 2012 . Lax was a John von Neumann Lecturer at SIAM in 1969 , received the Lester Randolph Ford Award in 1966 and 1973 , and the 1974 Chauvenet Prize (for The Formation and Decay of Shock Waves ). He is a fellow of the American Mathematical Society .

Work areas

Peter D. Lax is one of the most important living pure and applied mathematicians. He worked in the fields of partial differential equations , functional analysis , conservation laws , fluid mechanics and numerical mathematics .

The conservation equations of fluid mechanics are characterized by their hyperbolic character, so that they can have points of discontinuity, for example with shock waves . For their solution, Lax developed the Lax-Friedrichs method and the Lax-Wendroff method and proved Lax-Wendroff's theorem , which states that a conservative numerical method converges to a weak solution of the partial differential equation. The lax entropy condition specifies a condition that filters out a physically correct one from the possible weak solutions.

In addition, its name is linked to the Lax-Milgram lemma or the Lax-Levermore theory .

Very famous is Lax's equivalence theorem , which states that under certain conditions for a numerical method for solving ordinary differential equations, the properties of consistency and stability are equivalent to convergence.

In 1968 he made an important contribution to the inverse scattering transformation in the theory of solitons (introduction of the Lax pair and Lax equation ).


  • with Ralph S. Phillips : Scattering Theory (= Pure and Applied Mathematics. 26, ISSN  0079-8169 ). Academic Press, New York NY et al. 1967.
  • with Anneli Lax, Samuel Burstein: Calculus with applications and computing. Springer, New York NY 1976, ISBN 0-387-90179-5 .
  • with Ralph S. Phillips: Scattering theory for automorphic functions (= Annals of Mathematics Studies. 87). Princeton University Press et al., Princeton NJ 1976, ISBN 0-691-08184-0 .
  • The Flowering of Applied Mathematics in America. In: Peter Duren (Ed.): A Century of Mathematics in America (= History of Mathematics. 2). Volume 2. American Mathematical Society, Providence RI 1989, ISBN 0-8218-0130-9 , ( digitized (PDF; 1.28 MB) ).
  • Linear algebra. Wiley, New York NY et al. 1997, ISBN 0-471-11111-2 (2nd edition as: Linear Algebra and its applications. Ibid 2007, ISBN 978-0-471-75156-4 ).
  • Functional Analysis. Wiley, New York NY 2002, ISBN 0-471-55604-1 .
  • Selected papers. Edited by Peter Sarnak and Andrew Majda. 2 volumes. Springer, New York NY 2005, ISBN 0-387-22925-6 (Vol. 1), ISBN 0-387-22926-4 (Vol. 2).
  • Hyperbolic partial differential equations (= Courant Lecture Notes in Mathematics. 14). American Mathematical Society, Providence RI 2006, ISBN 0-8218-3576-9 (with appendix by Cathleen Synge Morawetz ).


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. Oral History Interview by Lax, SIAM
  3. ^ Foreign members of the Russian Academy of Sciences since 1724. Peter David Lax. Russian Academy of Sciences, accessed September 28, 2015 .
  4. Member History: Peter D. Lax. American Philosophical Society, accessed October 27, 2018 .
  5. 2012 honorary doctorates from the University of Pennsylvania ( memento of the original from August 25, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. ^ American Mathematical Monthly . Vol. 79, No. 3, 1972, pp. 227-241, doi : 10.1080 / 00029890.1972.11993023 .