KYOTO, Japan—Algorithm pioneer Laszlo Lovasz, whose mathematical methods have enabled myriad breakthroughs in information technology—from RSA encryption to 4G channel capacity—has received the Kyoto Prize, a $550,000 award that some believe rivals the Nobel Prize in international stature.
Awards were also bestowed on Japanese physician Shinya Yamanaka for his seminal discovery that skin-cells can be substituted for those obtained from embryos, and South African artist William Kentridge for his invention of the now widespread animation technology called "drawings in motion."
Lovasz—a Hungarian-born mathematician—has solved several long-standing information technology (IT) problems using graph theory. He is credited with using graph theory to extend the point-to-point IT of Claude Shannon—the first recipient of the Kyoto Prize in 1985—for the tower-hopping era of modern cellular radio communications. Lovasz has served as a senior scientist at Microsoft Research, but is currently a professor at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, where he is using graph theory to pioneer a new approach to the management of very large networks.
"Graph theory represents a different approach to optimization problems that uses geometry to compute results instead of differential equations," said Lovasz. "It turns out that very large networks in many different fields can be described by graphs, from cyptography to physical systems. The ellipsoid method, for instance, is particularly well suited for solving modern problems in circuit theory and networking."
Laszlo Lovasz receives the Kyoto Prize, which includes $550,000 cash plus recognition for technological achievement on par with Nobel Prize.
One of Lovasz's most far-reaching mathematical discoveries was how to use graph theory to place an upper bound on an information channel's "Shannon capacity,"called its "Lovasz number." Lovasz also solved the "weak perfect graph conjecture"—a long-standing problem in graph theory—by utilizing a unique new paradigm that expresses discrete values by systems of linear inequalities.
Lovasz is perhaps most well known for the breakthrough principles called the "Lovasz local lemma" and the "LLL-algorithm," which are widely used today in cryptography as well for the multiple-input and multiple-output wireless communications scheme used by WiFi, 4G, WiMAX and LTE.
U.S. President Barack Obama did not attend the Kyoto Prize ceremony, but did send a prepared statement: "I am especially pleased to congratulate Dr. Laszlo Lovasz on receiving the Kyoto Prize this year. Americans like him have contributed to myriad advancements in mathematical sciences and other fields of study. These efforts help advance all humankind and create a brighter future for all nations."
The Kyoto Prize was founded by Kyocera chairman Kazuo Inamori in 1984 and began bestowing prizes in 1985—the year that Claude Shannon received the first prize. It is now administrated by the independent nonprofit Inamori Foundation with assets of over $900 million.