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Edward Witten (born August 26, 1951) is an American theoretical physicist with a focus on mathematical physics who is currently the Professor of Mathematical Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study.
Witten is a leading researcher in superstring theory, a theory of quantum gravity, supersymmetric quantum field theories and other areas of mathematical physics. He is regarded by many of his peers as one of the greatest living physicists, perhaps even a successor to Albert Einstein.^{[1]}
He has also made seminal contributions in mathematics and helped bridge gaps between fundamental physics and various areas of mathematics. In 1990 he was awarded a Fields Medal by the International Union of Mathematics, which is the highest honor in mathematics and often regarded as the Nobel Prize equivalent for mathematics. He is the only physicist to have received this honor.
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Birth and education
Witten was born in Baltimore, Maryland to a Jewish family, the son of Lorraine W. Witten and Louis Witten, a theoretical physicist specializing in gravitation and general relativity. Witten had a very unusual background. Witten planned to become a political journalist, and published articles in The New Republic and The Nation. In 1968 Witten at the mere age of seventeen published an article in The Nation arguing that the New Left had no strategy. Witten went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts with a major in history and minor in linguistics from Brandeis University in 1971. He worked briefly for George McGovern, a Democratic presidential nominee in 1972. McGovern lost the election in a landslide to Richard Nixon. He held a fellowship at Harvard University (1976–77), was a junior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows (1977–80), and held a MacArthur Foundation fellowship (1982).
Witten attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison for one semester as an economics graduate student before dropping out. He then returned to academia, enrolling in applied mathematics at Princeton University before shifting departments and receiving a Ph.D. in physics in 1976 under David Gross, the 2004 Nobel laureate in Physics.
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