Jean-François Le Gall, winner of the Wolf Prize for Mathematics

The prestigious Wolf Prize for Mathematics has just been awarded to Jean-François Le Gall, Professor of Mathematics at Université Paris-Sud, for his profound and elegant works on stochastic processes. He shares this honour with Gregory Lawler, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Chicago.

Jean-François Le Gall is a specialist in probability theory. His studies aim to understand the properties of random processes better, including the famous Brownian motion, and those of other mathematical objects selected at random, including random graphs.

His research is part of modern probability theory, which has undergone very significant developments in the last forty years. His studies on Brownian motion, and particularly on the geometry of the Brownian curve in the plane, have helped him to discover some surprising properties of points visited several times by Brownian motion, and to obtain a very precise estimate of the area of a set of points, which a planar Brownian curve approaches at a distance below a small fixed number.

Jean-François Le Gall then became interested in random processes which describe the evolution of particle populations subjected to a double phenomenon of random reproduction and Brownian displacement in space. Thanks to a new random process, the Brownian snake, he has established strong links between this probabilistic study and another area of mathematics, the theory of partial differential equations. Since then, he has dedicated most of his studies to the properties of large random graphs drawn in the plane: such a graph has vertices (or “cities”), with two separate vertices sometimes being randomly connected by an edge (or “path”). The objective is to understand the geometry of these networks, for example the maximum distance between two vertices. These studies have led him to define a new mathematical object with fascinating properties, the Brownian map, which provides a model of random geometry in the physical theory of two-dimensional quantum gravity.

Jean-François Le Gall has been a professor at Université Paris-Sud since 2006. He leads the Probability and Statistics Group at Université Paris-Sud’s Faculty of Science's Mathematics Laboratory (UPSud/CNRS) based at Orsay. He has been a member of the Academy of Science since 2013, was a senior member of the French University Institute from 2007 to 2017, and has received many awards and honours. He has also been in charge of the ERC Advanced Grant GeoBrown since 2017.

In its statement, the Wolf Foundation explained that,“The Wolf Prize for Mathematics was awarded to Professor Jean-François Le Gall of Université Paris-Sud Orsay for his profound and elegant works on stochastic processes, and to Professor Gregory Lawler of the University of Chicago for his comprehensive and pioneering research on erased loops and random walks. The work undertaken by these two mathematicians on random processes and probability, which have been recognised by multiple awards, became the stepping stone for many consequent breakthroughs.

A prestigious prize awarded for 41 years

The Wolf Foundation was founded in 1976 by Ricardo Wolf (1887-1981), the former Cuban Ambassador to Israel. Each year, it has awarded five prizes since 1978, four in the field of science (agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, physics or medicine) and one in the field of arts (music, architecture, painting or sculpture), according to a determined rotation.

The jury composition is made up of three international experts “renowned in their field”, remains confidential and is renewed each year.

The five prizes, $100,000 per category ($ 0.5 million in total) are distributed this year among seven winners from three countries: the United States, France and Israel. The award will be presented to the winners by the Israeli president, as well as the President of the Wolf Foundation and the Minister of Education at the end of May, at an official ceremony at the Knesset building in Jerusalem.