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Election Year: 1971
Scientific Discipline: Mathematics
Membership Type: Member
Jürgen Moser’s fundamental contributions to nonlinear dynamical systems and celestial mechanics established him as one of the world’s most influential mathematical analysts. He developed unique approaches that have become the standard for solving problems in nonlinear differential equations and nonlinear fundamental analysis. In 1962, Moser became the first mathematician to provide a complete proof of stability for two-dimensional motion. He applied this proof to determine the stability of asteroids and of particle paths in magnetic fields. Moser then developed modern proofs of the regularity of solutions for elliptic and parabolic differential equations. His fundamental contribution to celestial mechanics, and his most important impact on mathematics, was the Kolmogorov-Arnold-Moser (KAM) Theory. Not only did the KAM Theory provide an accurate analysis for the orbits of planets, asteroids, and other celestial bodies, but it was applicable to any dynamical system that obeyed Newton’s Laws of Motion.
A German native, Moser received his Ph.D. in 1952 from the University of Göttingen. He came to America in 1955 as a research associate for New York University (NYU), becoming an assistant professor in 1956. The next year, he accepted a position as an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Moser returned to NYU in 1960 as a full professor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, where he would stay for the next two decades. From 1967 to 1970, he served as the director of the Courant Institute. He left America in 1980 to become a professor for the Federal Institute of Technology (FIT) in Zürich, Switzerland. He was appointed the director of FIT’s Mathematics Research Institute in 1984, holding the title until his retirement in 1995. From 1983 to 1986, Moser was the president of the International Mathematical Union. He was also a member of the American Mathematical Society, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Along with several international commendations, Moser was the recipient of George D. Birkhoff Prize in Applied Mathematics from the American Mathematical Society and SIAM in 1968 and the Craig Watson Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 1969.