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Famous mathematician Jean Bourgain passed away, age 64, after a prolonged battle with cancer.

In the 1970s and 80s one of Belgium’s most brilliant minds studied and worked at VUB. Later on, Jean Bourgain has spent the largest part of his career at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Valhalla for theorists.

The IAS had been Bourgain’s home and workplace since 1994. VUB alumnus – he received his PhD in 1977 at an age of only 23 and his habilitation two years later – was one of the eight permanent board members of the Institute’s mathematics department.


Bourgain has won many prizes during his long career, of which the Langevin Prize of the French Academy of Sciences (1985), the Ostrowski Prize (1991) and the Fields Medal (1994) are probably the most distinguished. The latter is sometimes called the Nobel Prize for mathematics. He has also been awarded several honorary doctorates, of which one from his alma mater in 1995.


On the occasion of his 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, he made a video for National Geographic, explaining in lay terms the sort of mathematical work he did:

more at VRT news, including an interview of 1986: