The Bowen Lectures

The Bowen Lectures are supported by anonymous donors, one of whom was an undergraduate student of Rufus Bowen.

The 2017-2018 Bowen Lectures will be given by Avi Wigderson of the Institute for Advanced Study, on February 7, 8 and 9, 2018. Each lecture begins at 4:10pm and ends at 5:00pm.

Series Title: Mathematics and Computation (through the lens of one problem and one algorithm)


Wednesday February 7th
Lecture 1: The problem, the algorithm and the connections.
Calvin Laboratory (Simons Institute) Auditorium


Thursday February 8th
Lecture 2: Proving Algebraic Identities.
60 Evans Hall


Friday February 9th
Lecture 3: Proving Analytic Inequalities.
Calvin Laboratory (Simons Institute) Auditorium


Series Abstract:

Mathematics and computation have gone hand in hand for millennia. Many of the greatest mathematicians we great algorithm designers as well, including Euclid, Newton, Gauss and Hilbert. And since the creation of the theories of computation and then computational complexity, these connections have become far broader, deeper and stronger.

This 3-lecture series will illustrate these connections by focusing on a single computational problem, Singularity of Symbolic Matrices, and a single algorithmic technique for it, Alternate Minimization. As it happens, recent attempts to understand these have uncovered a surprisingly rich web of connections between diverse areas of mathematics and computer science, all of which contributing and benefitting from this interaction. In math these include non-commutative algebra, invariant theory, quantum information theory and analysis. In computer science they include optimization, algebraic complexity and pseudorandomness.

In this first lecture I will give the general set-up, motivating and explaining the problem, algorithm and main results, as well as some of the connections.

In the next two lectures I will survey aspects of two central problems to both math and CS, Proving Algebraic Identities and Proving Analytic Inequalities, motivating and influenced by the research above.

While very related, all three lectures are designed to be independent of each other. They require no special background knowledge.

Lecture notes for much of this material can be found in



Born in 1947 in Vallejo, California, Robert Edward (Rufus) Bowen was awarded the AB with prizes for scholarship by the University of California at Berkeley in 1967. His doctorate in Mathematics was completed in Berkeley in 1970 under the direction of Stephen Smale. In that year he was appointed to the faculty of the Department of Mathematics at Berkeley. He was promoted to the rank of Professor in 1977.

Bowen worked in mathematical dynamics systems theory. His pioneering studies of topological entropy, symbolic dynamics, Markov partitions, and invariant measures are of lasting importance; much of today's research is inspired by his ideas.

Past Bowen Lecturers

1981-82     Dennis Sullivan
1982-83     Anatol Katok
1983-84     Michael Atiyah
1984-85     John Franks
1985-86     William Parry
1986-87     Nancy Kopell
1987-88     Blaine Lawson
1988-89     David Ruelle
1989-90     Yuri Manin
1990-91     John Milnor
1991-92     Philip Holmes
1992-93     Israel M. Gelfand
1993-94     Alain Connes
1994-95     Shing-Tung Yau
1995-96     Peter Sarnak
1996-97     Vladimir Arnold
1997-98     Simon Donaldson
1998-99     Barry Mazur
1999-00     Cliff Taubes
2000-01     Don Zagier
2001-02     Yakov G. Sinai
2002-03     Roger Penrose
2003-04     Richard Hamilton
2004-05     Curt McMullen
2005-06     John Conway
2006-07     Edward Witten
2007-08     Michael Freedman
2008-09     Hillel Furstenberg
2009-10     Christophe Soulé
2010-11     Michael Hopkins
2011-12     Cédric Villani
2012-13     Benedict Gross
2013-14     Jeff Cheeger
2014-15     Dusa McDuff
2015-16     Jacob Lurie
2016-17     Michael Harris