2010 Isaac Newton medal of the Institute of Physics
Professor Edward Witten
Institute for Advanced Studies
For his many profound contributions that have transformed areas of particle theory, quantum field theory and general relativity.
Edward Witten has been one of the most influential theoretical physicists of the past thirty years working at the interface of quantum field theory, general relativity and string theory. He has made numerous profound contributions that have transformed several major areas of research.
One quality that makes him unique among theoretical physicists is that in order to solve these problems he has often had to develop profoundly new mathematical insights. His combination of tremendous physical insight and mathematical power have had impact in areas ranging from the phenomenology of particle physics and cosmology to theoretical areas of string theory and quantum gravity.
He is a master of the geometric structure underlying the Feynman path integral that defines quantum systems. He invented topological field theory as a mathematical tool for understanding the vacuum states of interesting quantum field theories and string theories. His related work on Chern--Simons theory also has many physical implications as well as its celebrated impact on knot theory. He has used supersymmetry as a technique for understanding subtle quantum field theories of interest in particle physics and in the process given new insights into Morse theory and the positive energy theorem. With Seiberg, he transformed our understanding of the phase structure of rich supersymmetric field theories and in the process developed Seiberg--Witten theory as an extension of Donaldson theory. He brought the geometry of Calabi--Yau spaces into string theory and then developed many of the important mathematical ideas in mirror symmetry. His development of Twistor String Theory has lead to new insights into supersymmetric gauge theory and has breathed new life into the twistor programme. His contributions to non-perturbative string theory or `Mtheory' are numerous. These include, in particular, his work on D-branes and their intersections and his work on the gauge/gravity correspondence, an area that is now making contact with strongly coupled systems of interest in diverse areas of physics.