Hungarian-born Peter Lax currently holds the title of Professor Emeritus at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. Lax began working at NYU in 1951; prior to that, he worked on the Manhattan Project.
Lax’s family emigrated from Hungary in 1941 while he was a teenager, and at 17 he was able to study for three semesters at NYU (where he wound up acting as an instructor). He was drafted into the U.S. army and allowed to take classes at Texas A&M University, though his studies were again interrupted when he was sent to work at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as well as the Manhattan Project (all before earning an undergraduate degree). He was finally able to return to NYU in 1946, earn his bachelor’s degree with pooled credits, and complete his PhD there in 1949.
As a mathematician, Lax is known for a wide body of work on partial differential equations, pure mathematics, fluid dynamics, shockwaves, and computing. In particular, Lax is famous for the “Lax conjecture” about hyperbolic polynomials, which he proposed in 1958, and which went unproven for over four decades.
Published works from Lax include Linear Algebra and Its Applications.
For his work, Lax has received numerous awards and honors, including membership with the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and the (American) National Academy of Sciences, as well as a Lester R. Ford Award, National Medal of Science, Wolf Prize, Abel Prize, and fellowship with the American Mathematical Society.
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