# Gowers, William T

### mathematics fields spaces medal

(1963– ) British mathematician.

‘Tim’ Gowers received the Fields Medal for mathematics in 1998 for contributions to both functional analysis and combination theory. The Fields Medal is awarded every four years to between two and four mathematicians under age 40 and having outstanding distinction and promise in mathematics. The Canadian mathematician John Fields initiated, and provided money for, this international medal for mathematical distinction. The first medals were awarded in Oslo in 1936; and it is recognised as the mathematical equivalent of a Nobel Prize.

Gower was born in Marlborough, Wiltshire; he attended Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, before going on to work at University College, London, from 1991–5. He was appointed Rouse Ball professor of mathematics in Cambridge in 1998. He became interested in Banach’s work in the 1930s on unconditional bases and Banach spaces. The latter are sets of functions or operators rather than simply numbers; however they can be manipulated in a very similar manner, and this is an important tool in quantum physics. An understanding of the symmetry of these spaces provides insight into the structure of possible theories in quantum mechanics. Gowers showed that Banach spaces exist with almost no symmetry, refuting previous conjectures. He was then able to provide a new and simpler proof of the ‘homogenous space problem’ in functional analysis, a major achievement in twentieth-century mathematics.

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