LAX, PETER D. / Mathematics / Researchers

International Center for Scientific Research


Mathematics / LAX, PETER D.


Professor, Mathematics Department, New York University, N.Y., U.S.A.

Research interests

Peter D. Lax is one of the greatest pure and applied mathematicians of our times and has made signifi cant contributions, ranging from partial differential equations to applications in engineering. His name is connected with many major mathematical results and numerical methods, such as the Lax-Milgram Lemma, the Lax Equivalence Theorem, the Lax-Friedrichs Scheme, the Lax-Wendroff Scheme, the Lax Entropy Condition and the Lax-Levermore Theory.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Lax laid the foundations for the modern theory of nonlinear equations of this type (hyperbolic systems). He constructed explicit solutions, identified classes of especially wellbehaved systems, introduced an important notion of entropy, and, with Glimm, made a penetrating study of how solutions behave over a long period of time. In addition, he introduced the widely used Lax-Friedrichs and Lax-Wendroff numerical schemes for computing solutions. His work in this area was important for the further theoretical developments. It has also been extraordinarily fruitful for practical applications, from weather prediction to airplane design.

Another important cornerstone of modern numerical analysis is the “Lax Equivalence Theorem”. Inspired by Richtmyer, Lax established with this theorem the conditions under which a numerical implementation gives a valid approximation to the solution of a differential equation. This result brought enormous clarity to the subject.

Prizes and awards

Abel Prize for 2005 \"for his groundbreaking contributions to the theory and application of partial differential equations and to the computation of their solutions\".

He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1986, presented by President Ronald Reagan at a White House ceremony. Lax received the Wolf Prize in 1987 and the Chauvenet Prize in 1974 and shared the American Mathematical Society’s Steele Prize in 1992. He was also awarded the Norbert Wiener Prize in 1975 from the American Mathematical Society and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. In 1996 he was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society.

Peter D. Lax has been both president (1977-80) and vice president (1969-71) of the American Mathematical Society.

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