Vaughan Jones, eminent mathematician close to IHES, passed away

Vaughan Jones, former invited professor at IHES and a Board member of Friends of IHES, died at the age of 67.

IHES was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of distinguished mathematician Vaughan Jones.

After having obtained a Master of Science in Mathematics from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where he was born, Vaughan Jones obtained his PhD from the University of Geneva in 1979. He later moved to the United States, where he spent the rest of his career, teaching first at the University of California, Los Angeles, then at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1985 he became Professor of Mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he later became Professor Emeritus, and in 2011 he was nominated Stevenson Distinguished Professor of mathematics at Vanderbilt University.

Known especially for the knots invariant polynomial that he discovered in 1984 and that carries his name, he was awarded the Fields Medal in 1990 for having discovered a link between knot theory and statistical mechanics.

Alain Connes, Professor Emeritus at IHES, who met him in the late seventies, when he was still a young researcher, describes his discovery of the link between his theory of subfactors and knot theory as “one of pure genius”, and fondly recollects the steps of their collaboration, which led to a joint work on non conjugate Cartan subalgebras.

A frequent visiting professor at IHES, especially during the period between 1985 and the late 1990s, Vaughan Jones later served for several years as a Board Member of Friends of IHES, the American fundraising arm of the Institute, thus playing a precious role in supporting IHES and promoting its development.

The scientists and staff that had the chance to meet him still remember him with warm affection, which also transpires from the letters he exchanged with former directors Marcel Berger and Jean-Pierre Bourguignon.

IHES extends his deepest condolences to his wife, Martha, and his children Bethany, Ian and Alice.