Peter Lax

Peter Lax
Peter David Lax

Peter Lax in Tokyo, 1969
Born 1 May 1926 (1926-05-01) (age 85)
Budapest, Kingdom of Hungary
Nationality American
Fields Mathematics
Institutions Courant Institute
Alma mater Stuyvesant High School
Courant Institute
Doctoral advisor K. O. Friedrichs
Doctoral students Burton Wendroff
Alexandre Chorin
Ami Harten
James Sethian
Jeffrey Rauch
Known for Lax–Wendroff method
Lax equivalence theorem
Babuška–Lax–Milgram theorem
Lax pairs
Notable awards

Peter David Lax (born 1 May 1926) is a mathematician working in the areas of pure and applied mathematics. He has made important contributions to integrable systems, fluid dynamics and shock waves, solitonic physics, hyperbolic conservation laws, and mathematical and scientific computing, among other fields. Lax is listed as an ISI highly cited researcher.[1]


Life and education

Lax was born in Budapest, Hungary in Jewish family, and moved with his parents (Klara Kornfield and Henry Lax, both were medical doctors) to New York City in 1941, where he studied at Stuyvesant High School.[2] In 1948 he married Anneli Cahn, who also was on her way to becoming a career mathematician.

He is an alumnus of New York University, where he received both his bachelor's degree in 1947 with Phi Beta Kappa honors and his PhD in 1949 with thesis advisor Kurt O. Friedrichs.


In a 1958 paper Lax stated a conjecture about matrix representations for third order hyperbolic polynomials which remained unproven for over four decades. Interest in the "Lax conjecture" grew as mathematicians working in several different areas recognized the importance of its implications in their field, until it was finally proven to be true in 2003.[3]

Lax holds a faculty position in the Department of Mathematics, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University.

He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters[4] and the National Academy of Sciences, USA. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1986, the Wolf Prize in 1987 and the Abel Prize in 2005.

The CDC 6600 Incident

In 1970, the Transcendental Students took a CDC 6600 computer hostage at NYU's Courant Institute which he had been instrumental in acquiring. Some of the students present, possibly members of the Weathermen, threatened to destroy the computer with incendiary devices, but Lax managed to disable the devices and save the machine. The incident played a role in the resignation of Juergen Moser, director of the Courant Institute in 1967–1970.[5]


  • Functional Analysis, Wiley-Interscience, New York (2002).
  • Linear Algebra and Its Applications, 2nd ed., Wiley-Interscience, New York (2007).
  • Hyperbolic Partial Differential Equations, American Mathematical Society/Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences (2006).
  • Scattering Theory, with R. S. Phillips, Academic Press (1989).
  • Hyperbolic Systems of Conservation Laws and the Mathematical Theory of Shock Waves, Society for Industrial Mathematics (1987).
  • Decay of Solutions of Systems of Nonlinear Hyperbolic Conservation Laws, with J. Glimm, American Mathematical Society (1970).
  • Recent Mathematical Methods in Nonlinear Wave Propagation, with G. Boillat, C. M. Dafermos, T.-P. Liu, and T. Ruggeri, Springer (1996).
  • Scattering Theory for Automorphic Functions with R. S. Phillips, Princeton Univ. Press (2001).
  • Calculus with Applications and Computing, with S. Burnstein and A. Lax, Springer-Verlag, New York (1979).
  • Recent Advances in Partial Differential Equations
  • Mathematical Aspects of Production and Distribution of Energy
  • Nonlinear Partial Differential Equations in Applied Science
  • Lax, Peter D. (2005). Selected papers. Vol. I. Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 978-0-387-22925-6. MR2164867. 
  • Lax, Peter D. (2005). Selected papers. Vol. II. Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 978-0-387-22926-3. MR2164868. 

See also


  1. ^ Thomson ISI. "Lax, Peter D., ISI Highly Cited Researchers". Retrieved 20 June 2009. 
  2. ^ Dreifus, Claudia (29 March 2005). "A Conversation with Peter Lax – From Budapest to Los Alamos, a Life in Mathematics". New York Times. Retrieved 31 October 2007. 
  3. ^ A. S. Lewis; P. A. Parrilo, M. V. Ramana (18 April 2003). "The Lax conjecture is true". Optimization Online. Retrieved 31 October 2007. 
  4. ^ "Gruppe 1: Matematiske fag" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Retrieved 7 October 2010. 
  5. ^ Philip Colella (26 April 2004). "Peter Lax". Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. 

External links

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