3 August 1943 |
Extremal graph theory
|Institutions||University of Cambridge
University of Memphis
|Alma mater||Eötvös Loránd University
Trinity College, Cambridge
|Doctoral advisor||László Fejes Tóth
Paul Erdős 
|Notable students||Keith Ball
|Known for||Functional analysis
Extremal graph theory
|Notable awards||Senior Whitehead Prize (2007)
Fellow of the Royal Society (2011)
Doctor of Science
Béla Bollobás FRS (born 3 August 1943) is a Hungarian-born British mathematician who has worked in various areas of mathematics, including functional analysis, combinatorics, graph theory, and percolation. Paul Erdős has been his academic influence and inspiration ever since he was 14.
Early life and education
As a student, he took part in the first three International Mathematical Olympiads, winning two gold medals. Paul Erdős invited Bollobas to a lunch after hearing about his accomplishment and they kept in touch since then. His first publication was a joint publication with Erdős on extremal problems in graph theory that was written when he was in high school in 1962.
With Erdős’s recommendation to Harold Davenport and Bollobas’s long campaigning to get permission from the Communist authorities, Bollobas was able to spend a year in Cambridge, England during his undergraduate studies. However, his return to Cambridge again to complete his Ph.D. upon an offer from the university was denied by the Communist authorities. A following scholarship offer from Paris was also rejected by the authorities. He wrote his first doctorate in discrete geometry under the supervision of László Fejes Tóth and Paul Erdős in Budapest University, 1967, after which he spent a year in Moscow with Israïl Moiseevich Gelfand. After spending a year at Christ Church, Oxford where Michael Atiyah held the Savilian Chair of Geometry, and vowing never to return to Hungary due to his disillusion with the 1956 Soviet intervention and subsequent puppet communist regime, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where in 1972 he received a second Ph.D. in functional analysis (on Banach algebras) under the supervision of Frank Adams. In 1970, he was awarded a fellowship to the college.
By then, I said to myself, "If I ever manage to leave Hungary, I won't return."
— Béla Bollobás, Quoted in NUS Newsletter Issue 11.
His main area of research was combinatorics, particularly in graph theory. The two areas that interest him most are extremal graph theory and random graph theory. Bollobas stayed in Cambridge from 1971 to 1996.
He has been a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge since 1970; in 1996 he was appointed to the Jabie Hardin Chair of Excellence at the University of Memphis, and in 2005 he was awarded a Senior Research Fellowship at Trinity College.
He has proved numerous important results on extremal graph theory, functional analysis, the theory of random graphs, graph polynomials and percolation. For example, with Paul Erdős he proved sharp results about the structure of dense graphs; he was the first to prove detailed results about the phase transition in the evolution of random graphs; he proved that the chromatic number of the random graph on n vertices is asymptotically n/2 log n; with Imre Leader he proved basic discrete isoperimetric inequalities; with Richard Arratia and Gregory Sorkin he constructed the interlace polynomial; with Oliver Riordan he introduced the ribbon polynomial (now called the Bollobás–Riordan polynomial); with Andrew Thomason, József Balogh, Miklós Simonovits, Robert Morris and Noga Alon he studied monotone and hereditary graph properties; with József Balogh, Hugo Duminil-Copin and Robert Morris he studied bootstrap percolation; with Oliver Riordan he proved that the critical probability in random Voronoi percolation in the plane is 1/2; and with Svante Janson and Oliver Riordan he introduced a very general model of heterogeneous sparse random graphs.
In addition to over 350 research papers on mathematics, he has written several books, including the research monographs "Extremal Graph Theory" in 1978, "Random Graphs" in 1985 and "Percolation" (with Oliver Riordan) in 2006, the introductory books "Modern Graph Theory" for undergraduate courses in 1979, "Combinatorics" and "Linear Analysis" in 1990, and the collection of problems "The Art of Mathematics – Coffee Time in Memphis" in 2006, with drawings by Gabriella Bollobás. He has also edited a number of books, including "Littlewood's Miscellany".
Béla Bollobás has had a great many research students, including Andrew Thomason, Keith Carne, Timothy Gowers (who was awarded a Fields Medal in 1998 and is Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics) and Imre Leader at the University of Cambridge, Alexander Scott and Oliver Riordan now at Oxford, Jonathan Partington and Charles Read now at Leeds, and Keith Ball and Graham Brightwell now in London at UCL and the LSE, respectively.
Béla Bollobás is an External Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences; in 2007 he was awarded the Senior Whitehead Prize by the London Mathematical Society. In 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his major contributions to many different areas of mathematics within the broad field of combinatorics, including random graphs, percolation, extremal graphs, set systems and isoperimetric inequalities. The citation also recognizes the profound influence of his textbooks in many of these areas, and his key role in establishing Britain as one of the leading countries in probabilistic and extremal combinatorics. In 2012 he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.
Awards and honours
Bollobas was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2011, his nomination reads
|“||Béla Bollobás is one of the world's leading mathematicians in combinatorics. He has a huge published output, which includes major contributions to many different branches of this very large area, such as random graphs, percolation, extremal graphs and set systems, isoperimetric inequalities, and more. In addition, through his classic textbooks, he has more or less defined many of these subjects. Britain is now one of the strongest countries for probabilistic and extremal combinatorics in the world: this is almost entirely due to Bollobás's influence. ||”|
His father is a physician. His wife, Gabriella Bollobás, was also born in Budapest. She was an actress, a musician and a painter in Hungary before moving to England to become an accomplished sculptor. She made busts of famous mathematicians including Bill Tutte, George Batchelor, John von Neumann, Paul Dirac, and Stephen Hawking, as well as a cast bronze of David Hilbert.
- "BOLLOBÁS, Prof. Béla". Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press.(subscription required)
- Baker, A.; Bollobas, B. (1999). "Paul Erdős 26 March 1913 -- 20 September 1996: Elected For.Mem.R.S. 1989". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 45: 147. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1999.0011.
- Béla Bollobás at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Béla Bollobás", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
- Béla Bollobás from SciVerse Scopus bibliographic database
- List of publications from the DBLP Bibliography Server
- Béla Bollobás from the ACM Portal
- Béla Bollobás's results at the International Mathematical Olympiad
- Newsletter of Institute for Mathematical Sciences, National University of Singapore 11 (2007), 14-21
- London Mathematical Society. "List of Prizewinners". Retrieved 2007-07-08.
- Royal Society. "Béla Bollobás". Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2012-11-10.
- Interview in the magazine Imprints, Institute of Mathematical Sciences, National University of Singapore