Edward Witten

Institute for Advanced Study

2012 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

For contributions to physics spanning topics such as new applications of topology to physics, non-perturbative duality symmetries, models of particle physics derived from string theory, dark matter detection, and the twistor-string approach to particle scattering amplitudes, as well as numerous applications of quantum field theory to mathematics.

The Science

Edward Witten is known for his contributions to the understanding of quantum fields and strings. Among other things, he helped lead the study of dualities — quantum mechanical symmetries that have no analog in classical physics. As one consequence, it became clear that the five traditionally known string theories are limiting cases of a single theory — now sometimes called M-theory — which is a candidate for unifying the laws of nature.


For one who has the passion for science and mathematics, having the opportunity to work in those fields is the best thing one can imagine. I always tell young people that the continents have been explored, but there are still wide-open horizons in science and mathematics.

Edward Witten

Ceremony Acceptance Video

Selected Public Talks