Prof Stephen Smale

Prof Stephen Smale
Fields Medalist, 1966
Lee Kong Chian Distinguished Professor


Scientific Computation,

a Unifying Force
in Science

Prof Stephen Smale (Field Medalist 1966; Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley) was invited by IAS to deliver a public lecture at the NTU School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences on 3 May 2011. The lecture was supported by the NTU School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering as well as the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. Prof Smale was appointed as a Lee Kong Chian Distinguished Professor in relation to his visit to Singapore.


His lecture was titled “Scientific Computation, a Unifying Force in Science” and was well-attended by close to 100 faculty and students. Just like Differential Equations which had served as a unifying power for science for more than 300 years, Prof Smale believed Algorithms is playing a similar role even more so today.

He began his lecture with the “bag of words”, algorithm used by text classification processes in search engines, and illustrated a mathematical architecture in spaces for images of patches and translations. He further explained how this geometry of similarity/probability spatiality enabled one to pass from small similarities to larger ones. One of its major applications was the understanding of peptides.

Prof Smale has contributed immensely in the field of Mathematics. His proof of the Poincaré Conjecture for dimensions bigger or equal to 5, is one of the greatest mathematical achievements of the 20th century. He is one of the 12 mathematicians in history to win both the Fields Medal and the Wolf Prize in Mathematics.

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