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September 8, 2020

Department of Mathematics Mourns the Passing of Stevenson Chair and Distinguished Professor Vaughan Jones

Vaughan Jones, Stevenson Chair and distinguished professor of mathematics. (photo credit: Professor Akram Aldroubi)

Our dear colleague and friend Vaughan Jones died unexpectedly on September 6. All of us in the department are immensely saddened by this tragic loss. Professor Jones was a prominent and accomplished colleague, extraordinary friend, mentor, and teacher, and we will miss him deeply.

When Professor Jones joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University in 2011, he added tremendous prestige to the Department of Mathematics and the University as a whole. He was one of the most prominent mathematicians in the world. He received many awards including the top award in Mathematics, the Fields Medal in 1990. Professor Jones was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1990. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993, and the National Academy of Sciences in 1999. Professor Jones received the Fields Medal for his work in von Neumann algebras and the discovery of a fundamental invariant of knots, now called the Jones polynomial, which arose from an unexpected connection between the theory of von Neumann algebras, an area of analysis developed for quantum mechanics, and the theory of knots, an area of 3-dimensional topology. The discovery of the Jones polynomial led to the solution of a number of classical problems of knot theory and to the introduction of quantum methods in 3-dimensional topology. The Jones polynomial has also played an important role in physics, namely in loop quantum gravity, which is a synthesis of quantum mechanics and general relativity. Professor Jones gave plenary talks at the International Congress of Mathematics in 1990 and the International Association of Mathematical Physicists in 1988 and 1997. He was elected vice president of the American Mathematical Society in 2004 and vice president of the International Mathematics Union in 2014.

Please read an extended announcement of Professor Jones’ untimely death here.