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Marker Lectures in the Mathematical Sciences scheduled for Jan 10, 11, 12 and 13

4 January 2023
Don Zagier

Don Zagier, former director of the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Germany and holder of the Ramanujan International Chair at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), will present 2023 Russel Marker Lectures in the Mathematical Sciences on January 10, 11, 12, and 13 on the Penn State University Park campus. The free public lectures are sponsored by the Penn State Eberly College of Science.

The series includes a lecture intended for a general audience, titled “The miracle of dimension 3: topology becomes geometry becomes arithmetic,” which will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 10, in 111 Wartik Building. Zagier will also give three specialized lectures in 114 McAllister Building: “Classical and quantum invariants of knots” at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 11; “From knots to algebraic number theory” at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 12; and “Holomorphic quantum modular forms” at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, January 13.

Zagier is a mathematician who is primarily interested in interactions between number theory, especially the theory of modular forms, and other fields of mathematics and mathematical physics. Notable advancements include applications of his work on Heegner points to the Gauss Class Number Problem and the Birch–Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture, the many applications in both mathematics and mathematical physics of the theory of Jacobi forms that he co-developed, or the applications of the theory of mock modular forms—a discovery of his doctoral student—to the string theory of black holes. More recently, he has studied mathematics related to quantum field theory and in particular quantum invariants of knots, which have a surprising hidden modular behavior. 

After finishing high school at age 13 and attending Winchester College in England for a year, he studied mathematics and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for three years, completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the age of 16. He was named a Putnam Fellow in 1967 and received a doctoral degree from Oxford University in 1971 at the age of 20. He received a habilitation degree at the University of Bonn in 1975 at the age of 23 and was named professor at the age of 24.

Zagier has been a member of the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics since its founding in 1984 and served as one of its directors from 1995 to 2019. While at the Max Planck Institute, he also held positions at the University of Maryland from 1978 to 1990, Kyushu University in Japan from 1990 to 1993, the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands from 1990 to 2001, the Collège de France in Paris from 2001 to 2014, and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics since 2014. Prior to this, he was an academic staff member and then professor at the University of Bonn from 1971 to 1984.

Zagier is an emeritus member of the National Academy of Sciences, a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an honorary member of the London Mathematical Society. Additional awards and honors include the Fudan-Zhongzhi Science Award from Fudan University and Zhongzhi Enterprise Group in 2021, the Gauss Lectureship of the German Mathematical Society in 2007, the Karl Georg Christian von Staudt Prize from Friedrich Alexander University in Germany in 2001, the Chauvenet Prize from the Mathematical Association of America in 2000, the Frank Nelson Cole Prize from the American Mathematical Society in 1987, and the Carus Medal from the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 1984.

The Marker lectures were established in 1984 through a gift from Russell Earl Marker, professor emeritus of chemistry at Penn State, whose pioneering synthetic methods revolutionized the steroid-hormone industry and opened the door to the current era of hormone therapies, including the birth-control pill. The Marker endowment allows the Penn State Eberly College of Science to present annual Marker lectures in astronomy and astrophysics, the chemical sciences, evolutionary biology, genetic engineering, the mathematical sciences, and physics. 

For more information about the lectures or for access assistance, contact Kelli Jones at (814) 863-9051 or