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August 26: The Physicist and J Street

August 26, 2014
med_edward_witten-2Edward Witten, the first physicist to receive the Fields Medal, considered to be the Nobel Prize for mathematicians, was born in Baltimore on this date in 1951. Witten was working at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study when he received the medal in 1990 for his work on the mathematical implications of quantum field theory and string theory. In 2012, he was one of nine physicists who shared the $27 million Fundamental Physics Prize by Yuri Milner, a Russian high-tech investor — and Witten donated a large part of his share to J Street, the Jewish peace lobby, saying that “I believe that the need for a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the central issue before the Jewish world. A lot of people unfortunately do not realize that the chance for such a solution is slipping away, or understand the implications if it does.” Witten’s numerous awards include a 1982 MacArthur Award, a 2002 National Medal of Science, a 2005 Pythagoras Award, a 2010 Isaac Newton Medal, and many others. “[T]he beauty of Einstein’s equations... is just as real to anyone who’s experienced it as the beauty of music. We’ve learned in the 20th century that the equations that work have inner harmony.” —Edward Witten