François Ledrappier, Notre Dame professor emeritus of mathematics, Directeur de Recherche with the French CNRS, and member of the Probability and Random Models Laboratory at the Université Paris VI, was recently awarded a Grand Prize of the French Academy of Sciences. He was one of four mathematicians to win a grand prize this year and one of 35 across all scientific disciplines in France, from cardiology to atomic physics.
Ledrappier’s particular prize is known as the Sophie Germain Prize. Endowed in 2003, it was established to honor a French mathematician for research in the foundations of mathematics. It is named for Sophie Germain (1776–1831), a French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher who, among other things, won the grand prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences for her work on the theory of elasticity.
“French mathematics is among the best in the world, and French mathematicians include several recent Field’s Medalists (math’s equivalent of a Nobel prize), so it’s quite special that Ledrappier has been singled out for this distinction,” said department chair Jeff Diller. “This award recognizes an entire body of substantial work.”
Ledrappier is one of the world’s foremost experts in the area of dynamical systems, and his research embraces a wide range of mathematics, including geometry, group theory, and probability. Broadly speaking, dynamical systems is concerned with the long-term behavior of systems that evolve in time by precise rules. The long-term behavior of such a system is often unpredictable in its details, so much of Ledrappier’s work is concerned with understanding average behavior of complicated dynamical systems.