Princeton University Department of Mathematics

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Princeton University Department of Mathematics
Fine Hall, home to the Department of Mathematics
Parent institution
Princeton University
DeanDavid Gabai
Academic staff
101 faculty members and researchers (2018–2019)[1]
Students70 undergraduate students 78 graduate students (2018–2019)[2]
Location, ,
United States

The Princeton University Department of Mathematics is an academic department at Princeton University. Founded in 1760, the department has trained some of the world's most renowned and internationally recognized scholars of mathematics.[3][4] Notable individuals affiliated with the department include John Nash, former faculty member and winner of the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences; Alan Turing, who received his doctorate from the department; and Albert Einstein who frequently gave lectures at Princeton and had an office in the building.[5][6]

Since 2012, the chair of the department has been David Gabai, who was awarded the Oswald Veblen Prize in Geometry in 2004 and was elected into the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2011.


The first courses in mathematics were offered in 1760 when undergraduates enrolled in classes such as algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and conic sections.[7] Walter Minto was one of the earliest teachers of mathematics beginning in 1787.[8] By the beginning of the twentieth century, the department became "one of the world's great centers of mathematical teaching and research."[7] President Woodrow Wilson appointed Henry Burchard Fine as dean of the faculty in 1903 and later as the first chairman of the Department of Mathematics in 1905. The university invited a number of leading mathematics to conduct research at Princeton including Luther P. Eisenhart, Solomon Lefschetz, James W. Alexander II, James Jeans, J.H.M. Wedderburn, George David Birkhoff, Oswald Veblen. In 1928, Princeton created the first research professorship in mathematics in the United States. Research in the field of mathematics also continued to thrive when the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) was founded in Princeton, New Jersey in 1930.[7] Although the IAS and Princeton remain separate, they have continued to maintain close relations and collaborative projects thanks to their proximity to one another. Students and faculty are able to collaborate with IAS members and attend IAS seminar series.[9]

The political situation in Europe also caused an increased number of immigrants to enter the United States beginning in the 1930s. These scholars included Ralph Fox, Norman Steenrod, Emil Artin, John Tukey, Valentine Bargmann, Arthur Wightman, William Feller, and Donald C. Spencer. Others worked with both the then School of Mathematics and the Institute for Advanced Study to immigrate to the United States, including Albert Einstein, Hermann Weyl, Oskar Morgenstern, John von Neumann, Eugene Wigner, and Paul Erdős.[10] Albert Einstein, although never holding a position at the university, delivered a series of lectures on his theory of relativity in 1921 and continued to hold an office within the Department of Mathematics' building, Fine Hall, named in honor of the first faculty teacher and Princeton's first dean of science, Henry Burchard Fine.[7] The fireplace in the professors' lounge was surmounted by a famous Einstein quote: "God does not play dice with the universe."

In 1968, the department moved to a new Fine Hall (the old building being renamed Jones Hall). The new building features three stories of classrooms and graduate student offices. Another ten floors contain faculty offices, a seminar room, and a professors' lounge. Fine Hall has been described as the "anchor of mathematics" as it was the home of the School of Mathematics.[10] It was then that closer collaboration between the Institute for Advanced Study and Princeton University strengthened. Fine Hall also connects to Jadwin Hall, which is home to additional classroom and academic facilities. The architects of Fine and Jadwin Hall won the Award of Merit in the Architectural Design Award Program in 1966.[11]


Portrait of Albert Einstein at Princeton, 1935
Einstein-formal portrait-35.jpg
Einstein delivered several lectures and frequently visited the department

Albert Einstein Memorial Lecture[edit]

The Albert Einstein Memorial Lecture is held annually at Princeton on or around Einstein's birthday on March 14. The lecture is free and open to the public.[12] The 24th Annual Albert Einstein Memorial Lecture was dedicated to "Scientific Inquiry and Growth". It featured Nobel Prize Winner Jack Szostak giving a presentation on "The Origin of Life".[13]

Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics[edit]

The department runs the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics (PACM), an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental program for scholars interested in the application of mathematics to other fields. The PACM faculty consists of 15 core members, in addition to an executive committee, 34 graduate students, and 30 undergraduate certificate students.[14] The PACM has been at the forefront of research within the field of high-energy physics, notably leading the NSF-funded Institute for Research and Innovation in Software for High Energy Physics (IRIS-HEP), a coalition of 17 research universities that develops computing software for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.[15]

Annals of Mathematics[edit]

The department also co-publishes a bimonthly academic journal, the Annals of Mathematics, with the Institute for Advanced Study.[16] Founded in 1884, the Annals is frequently recognized as one of the top journals in mathematics.[17][18][19]

Women and Mathematics[edit]

The Women and Mathematics program is co-directed by the department and the IAS. The initiative aims to "recruit and retain more women in mathematics" through its lectures and mentorship program.[20] Sun-Yung Alice Chang, the previous chairperson and first female chair, has taken a personal interest in attracting more women into the field.[21][22]


Awards and Medals[edit]

A number of individuals affiliated with the department have won international prizes for their research in mathematics, including the Fields Medal, the Wolf Prize, the Henri Poincaré Prize, the Shaw Prize, Goldwater Scholars, and the Fulbright Award.[23][24][25][26][27][28]


At the undergraduate level, approximately 70–75 students concentrate in the field.[29] Students complete required courses in real analysis, complex analysis, algebra, geometry, and topology. Like all A.B. candidates at Princeton, students are required to complete a senior thesis based on original and independent research.[30] Students are also permitted to study abroad for a semester or an academic year at one of several internationally recognized institutions including the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Bonn University, the University of Moscow, and the University of Budapest.[31]

The department encourages those interested in pursuing careers to participate in the Principia: The Princeton Undergraduate Mathematics Journal. The journal was founded to promote and encourage research and exposition in mathematics at the undergraduate level.[32] It was one of the first of its kind to be developed by undergraduates and has served as the model for academic journals at other universities.[33]


Ph.D. candidates in the department conduct independent research under supervision of a faculty member. After completing a series of introductory-level courses, graduate students specialize in at least two special or advanced topics within the discipline. Notably, students must demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language (French, German, or Russian), proving their ability to work with mathematical texts from scholars around the world.[34] Graduate students are offered full tuition and student health plan coverage for all five years of the program. They are also able to apply for additional external funding and/or teach courses as Assistants-in-Instruction (AIs).[35]


In national and international rankings, the department often places within the top five of universities for the study of mathematics. U.S. News and World Report places the department at No. 1, ahead of Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University.[36] Times Higher Education also places the department as No. 1, ahead of international universities such as the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, and ETH Zurich.[37]

Notable faculty[edit]

The department is home to a number of scholars, researchers, and professors who have continued to be recognized by the international community. The university has been affiliated with 15 Fields Medalists, behind Harvard University (#1 with 18) and the University of Paris (#2 with 16). Some of these scholars include:

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "People". Princeton University Department of Mathematics.
  2. ^ "Students". Princeton University Department of Mathematics.
  3. ^ "The Fields Medal should return to its roots". Nature.
  4. ^ "Kollár receives 2017 Shaw Prize in mathematics". Princeton University.
  5. ^ "Einstein's legacy". Princeton University.
  7. ^ a b c d "Mathematics". A Princeton Companion. Archived from the original on 2012-01-02. Retrieved 2018-09-08.
  8. ^ "Walter Minto". A Princeton Companion.
  9. ^ "Mathematics". Princeton University.
  10. ^ a b Graham, Elyse. "Adventures in Fine Hall". Princeton Alumni Weekly.
  11. ^ "Fine Hall". A Princeton Companion.
  12. ^ "2017 Albert Einstein Memorial Lecture". Facebook.
  13. ^ "2018 Albert Einstein Memorial Lecture". Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce.
  14. ^ "Home". Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics.
  15. ^ "Princeton to lead new software institute to enable discoveries in high-energy physics". Princeton University.
  16. ^ "About". Annals of Mathematics.
  17. ^ "The Future Of Mathematics Publishing: An Interview With Sir Timothy Gowers". Forbes.
  18. ^ "Solving a Riddle of Primes". The New York Times.
  19. ^ "Solving the future with abstract algebra".
  20. ^ "Women and Mathematics". Institute for Advanced Study.
  21. ^ "Alice Chang: Perspective on the future of Princeton mathematics". Princeton University.
  22. ^ "Mentoring program aims to keep women in math". Princeton University.
  23. ^ "Akshay Venkatesh *02 Receives 2018 Fields Medal". Princeton University Department of Mathematics.
  24. ^ "Professor Charles Fefferman *69 shares 2017 Wolf Prize in Mathematics". Princeton University Department of Mathematics.
  25. ^ "Adam Hesterberg '11 Receives Fulbright Award". Princeton University Department of Mathematics.
  26. ^ "Kollár receives 2017 Shaw Prize in mathematics". Princeton University.
  27. ^ "Michael Aizenman Receives Henri Poincaré Prize at ICMP". Princeton University Department of Mathematics.
  28. ^ "Mathematics major Ryan Chen named Goldwater Scholar". Princeton University Department of Mathematics.
  29. ^ "Information for Math Majors". Princeton University Department of Mathematics.
  30. ^ "Requirements". Princeton University Department of Mathematics.
  31. ^ "International Study". Princeton University Department of Mathematics.
  32. ^ "About the Journal". Principia: The Princeton Undergraduate Mathematics Journal.
  33. ^ "Yalies to launch undergraduate math journal". Yale Daily News.
  34. ^ "Program Requirements". Princeton University Department of Mathematics.
  35. ^ "Financial Support". Princeton University Department of Mathematics.
  36. ^ "Mathematics Rankings". U.S. News and World Report.
  37. ^ "Top universities where you can study mathematics & statistics". Times Higher Education: World University Rankings.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°20′57″N 74°39′13″W / 40.34914°N 74.65362°W / 40.34914; -74.65362