Today, the name of the winner of the 2008 Abel Prize was announced by the president of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. The winner is John Griggs Thompson (U. of Florida) and Jacques Tits (College de France). Their work is in algebra and group theory, and in particular in the classification of finite simple groups.
The Abel Prize is the mathematicians analog of the Nobel Prize. From the homepage of the Abel Fund:
“The Niels Henrik Abel Memorial Fund was established on 1 January 2002, to award the Abel Prize for outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics. The prize amount is 6 million NOK (about 750,000 Euro) and was awarded for the first time on 3 June 2003.”
The prize was first proposed to be part of the 1902 celebration of 100th anniversary of norwegian mathematician Henrik Abel’s birth; however, for various historical reasons, the prize was first to be awarded beginning in 2002, on the 200th anniversary of Abel’s birth.
The former laureates are: 2007: S. R. Srinivasa Varadhan, (Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University). 2006: Lennart Carleson (Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden). 2005: Peter D. Lax (Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University). 2004: Michael F. Atiyah (University of Edinburgh) and Isadore M. Singer (MIT). 2003: Jean-Pierre Serre (Collège de France).
Dr. Thompson and Dr. Tits will hopefully have a nice trip to Oslo in late May, when they will receive their prizes from King Harald of Norway. Rumor has it, that Tits will buy a gift for his wife, and Thompson will pay for his familys trip to Oslo.
A good review (by Ron Solomon) of the problem of classifying simple finite groups can be found here [pdf].