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Edward Witten (Baltimore, August 26, 1951) is an American physicist and mathematician. He has developed most of his scientific work at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton. Great contributions are due to the theoretical physics of elementary particles and to quantum field theory (especially in quantum chromodynamics).
He was born in Baltimore, (Maryland). Son of Louis Witten, physicist who specialized in gravitation and general relativity, and Lorena W. Witten. He graduated in history with a diploma in linguistics at Brandeis University. Witten posed as a political journalist, and published articles in The New Republic and The Nation. He worked briefly for George McGovern’s presidential campaign, and then went back to school. He received his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University in 1976 under the supervision of David Gross. Then, he worked at Harvard University for the Harvard Society of Fellows as a Junior Fellow and at Princeton as a professor. He spent two years at Caltech from 1999 to 2001. He is currently a professor of mathematical physics at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. He married Chiara Nappi, a professor of physics at Princeton University. His brother, Matt Witten, is a screenwriter and producer of several well-known television series such as L.A. Law and House
Witten’s work combines theoretical physics with modern mathematics. His main works have been, above all, in quantum field theory and string theory, and in related areas of topology and geometry. Among his many contributions are his proof of the positivity of energy in the general theory of relativity, his work on Supersymmetry, his introduction of the quantum theory of topological fields and his work of mirror symmetry and gauge theory, and his conjecture on the existence of the M theory.
Witten has been the first physicist to win the Fields Medal. An example of its impact on pure mathematics is offered by his work to understand the Jones polynomial by means of the Chern-Simons theory. This has had a great impact on geometric topology and led to the quantum invariants to be called Reshetikhin-Witten invariants.
In addition, Witten has exerted his influence on several mathematical problems that seemed unsolvable, because some mathematicians have found that the ideas and seminal approaches of these, came from his ideas, which he usually shares in his seminaries of geometry and analysis in Princeton.
It is considered the main responsible for the second revolution of string theory, now called superstring theory. The theory originally proposed the use of extended entities (strings), to model the behavior of the quantum world, but then there were some internal failures in it, such as tachyonic behavior, in addition to some physicists objected that the theory was mechanically consistent only if the number of dimensions was 26.
Then, in the 1980s, with some physicists, introducing the generalization known as supersymmetry groups, worked on the theory until it became consistent, the dimensionality was reduced from 26 to 11 (10 spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension), the tachyonic problem, and went from being a theory of strong interactions (since the strings were proposed by some curious results in the resolution of certain Feynman diagrams, which arise in the quantum field theory) to be a theory that describes both the quantum behavior like that of gravity (the sought after quantum gravity).
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