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Srinivasa Varadhan

December 2007
Srinivasa Varadhan

WHO: SRINIVASA VARADHAN, Scientific research, professor of mathematics.

WHY: Wins the 2007 Abel Prize—widely regarded as the Nobel for math—for probability theory and for creating a unified theory of large deviations.

WORTH NOTING: First Indian to win the Abel. He and his wife, also a mathematician, teach at New York University. Their older son, Gopal, died in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. According to the Abel committee, Varadhan’s work allows us to simulate and analyze the occurrence of rare events with the help of computers.

WHAT WAS SAID: In many real-life situations, rare events—like 1000 lorries rolling over a bridge in one day causing it to fail, or a freak wave causing a dam to burst—are simply too serious to be taken lightly. Striking the balance between feasibility and safety involves subtle and complex mathematics that is not covered by the classical theorems of probability theory. This is what the theory of large deviation, for which Varadhan is being honored, is all about. (Plus magazine)

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