August 24, 1942 -
Karen Uhlenbeck graduated from the University of Michigan in 1964. She received her Ph.D. from Brandeis University in 1968 with a thesis on "The Calculus of Variations and Global Analysis." Uhlenbeck has made "pioneering contributions to global analysis and gauge theory that resulted in advances in mathematical physics and the theory of partial differential equations." [MAA Focus]. She taught at MIT, Berkeley, the University of Illinois in both Champaign-Urbana and Chicago, and since 1988 held the Third Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents' Chair in Mathematics at the University of Texas before her retirement. She was a MacArthur Fellow in 1983, and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1985), the National Academy of Sciences (1986), and as a member of the 2020 AWM Fellows. On December 1, 2000, she received a National Medal of Science for "special recognition by reason of [her] outstanding contributions to knowledge" in the area of mathematics. She has also served as Vice-President of the American Mathematical Society. In 1990 she became only the second woman (after Emmy Noether in 1932) to give a Plenary Lecture at an International Congress of Mathematics.
Uhlenbeck is a co-founder of the IAS/Park City Mathematics Institute and the program for Women and Mathematics in Princeton. In 2007 she received the AMS Steele Prize for a Seminal Contribution to Mathematical Research for her foundational contributions in analytic aspects of mathematical gauge theory that appeared in two papers in the Communications in Mathematical Physics in 1982. You can read her acceptance speech from her home page at the University of Texas.
Read a reprint of Karen Uhlenbeck's Personal Profile that appeared in the MAA Math Horizons.
In 2019 Uhlenbeck became the first woman to win the prestigious Abel Prize in mathematics from the Norwegian Academy of Science.
Photo Credit: Photograph used with permission of the Association for Women in Mathematics and is taken from Profiles of Women in Mathematics-The Emmy Noether Lectures, published by the AWM.