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Peter David Lax (born 1 May 1926 in Budapest, Hungary) is a mathematician working in the areas of pure and applied mathematics. He has made important contributions to integrable systems, fluid dynamics and shock waves, solitonic physics, hyperbolic conservation laws, and mathematical and scientific computing, among other fields. Lax is listed as an ISI highly cited researcher.[1]

In a 1958 paper Lax stated a conjecture about matrix representations for third order hyperbolic polynomials which remained unproven for over four decades. Interest in the "Lax conjecture" grew as mathematicians working in several different areas recognized the importance of its implications in their field, until it was finally proven to be true in 2003.[2]

Lax was born in Budapest, Hungary, and moved with his parents (Klara Kornfield and Henry Lax) to New York City in 1941, where he studied at Stuyvesant High School.[3] In 1948 he married Anneli Cahn, who also was on her way to becoming a career mathematician.

Lax holds a faculty position in the Department of Mathematics, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1986, the Wolf Prize in 1987 and the Abel Prize in 2005.

He is an alumnus of New York University, where he received both his bachelor's degree in 1947 with Phi Beta Kappa honors and his Ph.D. in 1949 with thesis advisor Kurt O. Friedrichs.

The CDC 6600 Incident

In 1970, the Transcendental Students took a CDC 6600 computer hostage at NYU's Courant Institute which he had been instrumental in acquiring. Some of the students present, possibly members of the Weathermen, threatened to destroy the computer with incendiary devices, but Lax managed to disable the devices and save the machine. The incident played a role in the resignation of Juergen Moser, director of the Courant Institute in 1967 -1970. [4]


* Functional Analysis, Wiley-Interscience, New York (2002).
* Linear Algebra and Its Applications, 2nd ed., Wiley-Interscience, New York (2007).
* Hyperbolic Partial Differential Equations, American Mathematical Society/Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences (2006).
* Scattering Theory, with R. S. Phillips, Academic Press (1989).
* Hyperbolic Systems of Conservation Laws and the Mathematical Theory of Shock Waves, Society for Industrial Mathematics (1987).
* Decay of Solutions of Systems of Nonlinear Hyperbolic Conservation Laws, with J. Glimm, American Mathematical Society (1970).
* Recent Mathematical Methods in Nonlinear Wave Propagation, with G. Boillat, C. M. Dafermos, T.-P. Liu, and T. Ruggeri, Springer (1996).
* Scattering Theory for Automorphic Functions with R. S. Phillips, Princeton Univ. Press (2001).
* Calculus with Applications and Computing, with S. Burnstein and A. Lax, Springer-Verlag, New York (1979).
* Recent Advances in Partial Differential Equations
* Mathematical Aspects of Production and Distribution of Energy
* Nonlinear Partial Differential Equations in Applied Science

See also

* Lax pair
* Lax–Milgram theorem
* Lax–Friedrichs method
* Lax–Richtmyer theorem, also called Lax equivalence theorem
* undercompressive shock wave


1. ^ Thomson ISI. "Lax, Peter D., ISI Highly Cited Researchers". http://hcr3.isiknowledge.com/author.cgi?&link1=Browse&link2=Results&id=3419. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
2. ^ A. S. Lewis; P. A. Parrilo, M. V. Ramana (2003-04-18). "The Lax conjecture is true". Optimization Online. http://www.optimization-online.org/DB_HTML/2003/04/641.html. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
3. ^ Dreifus, Claudia (2005-03-29). "A Conversation with Peter Lax - From Budapest to Los Alamos, a Life in Mathematics". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/29/science/29conv.html. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
4. ^ Philip Colella (April 26, 2004). "Peter Lax". Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. http://history.siam.org/oralhistories/lax.htm.

External links

* Peter Lax at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
* O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Lax, Peter ", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews, http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Lax_Peter.html .
* Elements from his contributions to mathematics. Popularised presentation of Peter Lax by Helge Holden, published on the Abel Prize website.
* Abel Prize press release and biography
* NY Times Interview 3 29 05
* Raussen, Martin; Christian Skau (February 2006). "Interview with Peter D. Lax" (PDF). Notices of the American Mathematical Society 53 (2): pp.223–229. http://www.ams.org/notices/200602/comm-lax.pdf. Retrieved 2008-01-16.


Mathematics Encyclopedia

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