Dr. Sylvain Cappell, a member of the Advisory Board of the Committee of Concerned Scientists, and a world renowned mathematician, has been an active supporter of human rights for many years. We are delighted to congratulate him on receiving the prestigious Public Service Award from AMS.
Sylvain Cappell, Julius Silver Professor of Mathematics at New York University (NYU), will receive the 2018 AMS Award for Distinguished Public Service for his remarkable mentoring of talented young mathematicians, his dedication to protecting human rights, and his extraordinary involvement in outreach.
During his years at the Courant Institute, Cappell has displayed an exceptional ability to recognize and nurture mathematical talent. He has also served as advisor to organizations ranging from the Rothschild Foundation and Caltech to New York Math Circles, the National Museum of Mathematics, and Math for America.
Mathematicians focused on research often forget that their profession requires public service in order to sustain it. Sylvain Cappell is a model for all mathematicians–a distinguished research mathematician devoted not only to doing mathematics but also to nurturing and serving it well.
Biographical Sketch of Sylvain Cappell:
Sylvain Cappell was born in Belgium in 1946 to Holocaust survivors. His parental family immigrated to the U.S. in 1950. He obtained his PhD in mathematics from Princeton University in 1969, working under the supervision of William Browder, and held academic appointments there until 1974. Since 1974 he has been at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, and in 2008 was appointed by NYU to its Julius Silver Professorship.
His 100 scientific publications include research works on geometric topology and its connections to many other areas of mathematics, including algebraic, symplectic, combinatorial, and differential geometry, as well as algebraic K-theory and global analysis. He was awarded both Sloan Foundation and Guggenheim Foundation Fellowships and has given invited addresses to both the AMS and the International Congress of Mathematicians. He is an inaugural Fellow of the AMS, and has served on, including as chair, AMS national committees, on its Council, on its Executive Committee, and as Vice President of the AMS (2010-13).
Professor Cappell has supervised 19 doctoral theses, 2 at Princeton and 17 at NYU. Several of his former students and postdocs have chaired leading math departments in the U.S. and Europe, and these and others have been research and educational leaders. His extensive, long-term involvements in math education of young people include serving from its inception on the Advisory Council of the National Museum of Mathematics and as advisor to the Math-for-America Foundation.
Response of Sylvain Cappell:
I’m deeply honored to receive this award. Whatever efforts I’ve made which it denotes are a small return for my great good fortune in having had a mathematical life in which I’ve enjoyed inspiring great teachers, brilliant, long-term, research collaborators who made working sessions in Greenwich Village cafés and elsewhere a delight, consistently supportive colleagues at the Courant Institute with whom I’ve shared scientific and educational goals, and wonderful students from youngsters to doctoral and postdocs with whom adventures in learning and working together have been a joy.
I’d like to acknowledge some of the outstanding institutions with which I’ve long been privileged to work on math educational and outreach activities. These include the National Museum of Mathematics, the Courant Institute’s Center for Mathematical Talent, the Math-for-America Foundation, the New York Math Circles and the Faculty Resource Network. I’ve also been privileged to be involved with great human rights work in academia worldwide accomplished by the Committee of Concerned Scientists and by Scholars-at-Risk. Unfortunately, the need for such dedicated academic human rights efforts is not yet diminishing.
Background of the AMS Award for Distinguished Public Service:
The AMS Award for Distinguished Public Service is presented every two years and recognizes a research mathematician who has made a distinguished contribution to the mathematics profession during the preceding five years. The 2018 award will be given on Thursday, January 11, 2018, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego.