George Lusztig, the Norbert Wiener Professor of Mathematics, has been awarded the 2008 Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement.
The award, given by the American Mathematical Society, is one of the highest distinctions in mathematics. Lusztig received the award Jan. 7 at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego.
Lusztig, who has been at MIT since 1978, is best known for his work on representation theory, which explores the properties of abstract groups and has a wide range of applications in physics, chemistry, probability and number theory. He has developed fundamental new concepts including the Deligne-Lusztig theory and the Kazhdan-Lusztig polynomials.
The AMS said Lusztig's work had "entirely reshaped representation theory" and, in the process, prompted changes in much of the field of mathematics.
"His work has touched widely separated parts of mathematics, reshaping them and knitting them together. He has built new bridges to combinatorics and algebraic geometry, solving classical problems in those disciplines and creating exciting new ones," the society said in its citation. "This is a remarkable career, and as exciting to watch today as it was at the beginning more than 30 years ago."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 16, 2008 (download PDF).