14 June 1917|
|Died||6 August 2007
Princeton, New Jersey, United States
|Alma mater||University of Oslo|
|Known for||Chowla–Selberg formula
Critical line theorem
Selberg trace formula
Selberg zeta function
|Notable awards||Abel Prize (honorary) (2002)
Fields Medal (1950)
Wolf Prize (1986)
Gunnerus Medal (2002)
Atle Selberg (14 June 1917 – 6 August 2007) was a Norwegian mathematician known for his work in analytic number theory, and in the theory of automorphic forms, in particular bringing them into relation with spectral theory. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1950.
Selberg was born in Langesund, Norway, the son of teacher Anna Kristina Selberg and mathematician Ole Michael Ludvigsen Selberg. Two of his brothers also went on to become mathematicians as well, and the remaining one became a professor of engineering. While he was still at school he was influenced by the work of Srinivasa Ramanujan and he found the exact analytical formula for the partition function as suggested by the works of Ramanujan; however, this result was first published by Hans Rademacher. During the war he fought against the German invasion of Norway, and was imprisoned several times. He studied at the University of Oslo and completed his Ph.D. in 1943.
World War II
During World War II, Selberg worked in isolation due to the German occupation of Norway. After the war his accomplishments became known, including a proof that a positive proportion of the zeros of the Riemann zeta function lie on the line .
After the war, he turned to sieve theory, a previously neglected topic which Selberg's work brought into prominence. In a 1947 paper he introduced the Selberg sieve, a method well adapted in particular to providing auxiliary upper bounds, and which contributed to Chen's theorem, among other important results.
In March 1948, Selberg established, by elementary means, the asymptotic formula
for primes . By July of that year, Selberg and Paul Erdős had each obtained elementary proofs of the prime number theorem, both using Selberg's then unpublished asymptotic formula as a starting point. Circumstances leading up to the proofs, as well as publication disagreements, led to a bitter dispute between the two mathematicians.
For his fundamental accomplishments during the 1940s, Selberg received the 1950 Fields Medal.
Institute for Advanced Study
Selberg moved to the United States and settled at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey in the 1950s where he remained until his death. During the 1950s he worked on introducing spectral theory into number theory, culminating in his development of the Selberg trace formula, the most famous and influential of his results. In its simplest form, this establishes a duality between the lengths of closed geodesics on a compact Riemann surface and the eigenvalues of the Laplacian, which is analogous to the duality between the prime numbers and the zeros of the zeta function.
Selberg received many distinctions for his work in addition to the Fields Medal, the Wolf Prize and the Gunnerus Medal. He was elected to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Selberg had two children, Ingrid Selberg and Lars Selberg. Ingrid Selberg is married to playwright Mustapha Matura.
He died at home in Princeton on 6 August 2007 of heart failure.
- Atle Selberg Collected Papers: 1 (Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg), ISBN 0-387-18389-2
- Collected Papers (Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg Mai 1998), ISBN 3-540-50626-8
- Spencer, Joel; Graham, Ronald (2009). "The Elementary Proof of the Prime Number Theorem" (PDF). The Mathematical Intelligencer 31 (3): 18–23. doi:10.1007/s00283-009-9063-9.
- Goldfeld, Dorian (2003). "The Elementary Proof of the Prime Number Theorem: an Historical Perspective". Number Theory: New York Seminar: 179–192.
- Baas, Nils A.; Skau, Christian F. (2008). "The lord of the numbers, Atle Selberg. On his life and mathematics" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 45 (4): 617–649. doi:10.1090/S0273-0979-08-01223-8
- "Atle Selberg, 90, Lauded Mathematician, Dies". New York Times. 2007-08-17.
- Donald J. Albers & Gerald L. Alexanderson (2011) Fascinating Mathematical People: interviews and memoirs, "Atle Selberg", pp 254–73, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-14829-8 .
- Baas, Nils A.; Skau, Christian F. (2008). "The lord of the numbers, Atle Selberg. On his life and mathematics". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 45 (4): 617–649. doi:10.1090/S0273-0979-08-01223-8 Interview with Selberg
- Hejhal, Dennis (June–July 2009). "Remembering Atle Selberg, 1917–2007" (PDF). Notices of the American Mathematical Society 56 (6): 692–710.
- Selberg (1996). "Reflections Around the Ramanujan Centenary" (PDF)
- Atle Selberg at Encyclopædia Britannica
- O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Atle Selberg", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
- Atle Selberg at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- Atle Selberg Archive webpage
- Obituary at IAS
- Obituary in The Times