William Thurston
William Thurston  

William Thurston in 1991


Born 
William Paul Thurston October 30, 1946 Washington, D.C., United States 
Died  August 21, 2012 Rochester, New York, United States 
(aged 65)
Nationality  American 
Alma mater 
New College of Florida University of California, Berkeley 
Known for 
Thurston's geometrization conjecture Thurston's theory of surfaces Milnor–Thurston kneading theory 
Awards 
Fields Medal (1982) Oswald Veblen Prize in Geometry (1976) National Academy of Sciences (1983) Leroy P. Steele Prize (2012). 
Scientific career  
Fields  Mathematics 
Institutions 
Cornell University University of California, Davis Mathematical Sciences Research Institute University of California, Berkeley Princeton University 
Doctoral advisor  Morris Hirsch 
Doctoral students 
Richard Canary Benson Farb David Gabai William Goldman Steven Kerckhoff Yair Minsky Igor Rivin Oded Schramm Richard Schwartz Danny Calegari 
William Paul Thurston (October 30, 1946 – August 21, 2012) was an American mathematician. He was a pioneer in the field of lowdimensional topology. In 1982, he was awarded the Fields Medal for his contributions to the study of 3manifolds. From 2003 until his death he was a professor of mathematics and computer science at Cornell University.
Contents
Mathematical contributions
Foliations
His early work, in the early 1970s, was mainly in foliation theory, where he had a dramatic impact. His more significant results include:
 The proof that every Haefliger structure on a manifold can be integrated to a foliation (this implies, in particular that every manifold with zero Euler characteristic admits a foliation of codimension one).
 The construction of a continuous family of smooth, codimensionone foliations on the threesphere whose Godbillon–Vey invariant (after Claude Godbillon and Jacques Vey) takes every real value.
 With John N. Mather, he gave a proof that the cohomology of the group of homeomorphisms of a manifold is the same whether the group is considered with its discrete space or its compactopen topology.
In fact, Thurston resolved so many outstanding problems in foliation theory in such a short period of time that it led to a kind of exodus from the field, where advisors counselled students against going into foliation theory.^{[1]} because Thurston was "cleaning out the subject" (see "On Proof and Progress in Mathematics", especially section 6^{[2]} )
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2008)

The geometrization conjecture
His later work, starting around the mid1970s, revealed that hyperbolic geometry played a far more important role in the general theory of 3manifolds than was previously realised. Prior to Thurston, there were only a handful of known examples of hyperbolic 3manifolds of finite volume, such as the Seifert–Weber space. The independent and distinct approaches of Robert Riley and Troels Jørgensen in the midtolate 1970s showed that such examples were less atypical than previously believed; in particular their work showed that the figureeight knot complement was hyperbolic. This was the first example of a hyperbolic knot.
Inspired by their work, Thurston took a different, more explicit means of exhibiting the hyperbolic structure of the figureeight knot complement. He showed that the figureeight knot complement could be decomposed as the union of two regular ideal hyperbolic tetrahedra whose hyperbolic structures matched up correctly and gave the hyperbolic structure on the figureeight knot complement. By utilizing Haken's normal surface techniques, he classified the incompressible surfaces in the knot complement. Together with his analysis of deformations of hyperbolic structures, he concluded that all but 10 Dehn surgeries on the figureeight knot resulted in irreducible, nonHaken nonSeifertfibered 3manifolds. These were the first such examples; previously it had been believed that except for certain Seifert fiber spaces, all irreducible 3manifolds were Haken. These examples were actually hyperbolic and motivated his next revolutionary theorem.
Thurston proved that in fact most Dehn fillings on a cusped hyperbolic 3manifold resulted in hyperbolic 3manifolds. This is his celebrated hyperbolic Dehn surgery theorem.
To complete the picture, Thurston proved a hyperbolization theorem for Haken manifolds. A particularly important corollary is that many knots and links are in fact hyperbolic. Together with his hyperbolic Dehn surgery theorem, this showed that closed hyperbolic 3manifolds existed in great abundance.
The geometrization theorem has been called Thurston's Monster Theorem, due to the length and difficulty of the proof. Complete proofs were not written up until almost 20 years later. The proof involves a number of deep and original insights which have linked many apparently disparate fields to 3manifolds.
Thurston was next led to formulate his geometrization conjecture. This gave a conjectural picture of 3manifolds which indicated that all 3manifolds admitted a certain kind of geometric decomposition involving eight geometries, now called Thurston model geometries. Hyperbolic geometry is the most prevalent geometry in this picture and also the most complicated. The conjecture was proved by Grigori Perelman in 2002–2003.
Orbifold theorem
In his work on hyperbolic Dehn surgery, Thurston realized that orbifold structures naturally arose. Such structures had been studied prior to Thurston, but his work, particularly the next theorem, would bring them to prominence. In 1981, he announced the orbifold theorem, an extension of his geometrization theorem to the setting of 3orbifolds. Two teams of mathematicians around 2000 finally finished their efforts to write down a complete proof, based mostly on Thurston's lectures given in the early 1980s in Princeton. His original proof relied partly on Richard S. Hamilton's work on the Ricci flow.
Education and career
Thurston was born in Washington, D.C. to a homemaker and an aeronautical engineer. He received his bachelor's degree from New College (now New College of Florida) in 1967.^{[3]} For his undergraduate thesis he developed an intuitionist foundation for topology. Following this, he earned a doctorate in mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1972. His Ph.D. advisor was Morris Hirsch and his dissertation was on Foliations of ThreeManifolds which are Circle Bundles.^{[4]}
After completing his Ph.D., he spent a year at the Institute for Advanced Study,^{[5]} then another year at MIT as Assistant Professor. In 1974, he was appointed Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University. He and his first wife, née Rachel Findley, had three children: Dylan, Nathaniel, and Emily.^{[6]} In 1991, he returned to UCBerkeley as Professor of Mathematics and in 1993 became Director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. In 1996, his wife Julian, who had earlier been his Ph.D. student at Princeton University, made a career switch to veterinary medicine, and began her studies at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Bill and Julian moved to Davis, California, where Bill became Professor of Mathematics at UC Davis. In 2000, their first child Jade was born, and in 2003 their second child Liam was born. Bill and Julian had visited Ithaca in 1997 for a family celebration for his mother's 80th birthday. They were enchanted by the beauty of Ithaca, and in 2003 the family moved to Ithaca, New York, where Bill became Professor of Mathematics at Cornell University.
His Ph.D. students include Martin Bridgeman, Danny Calegari, Richard Canary, Suhyoung Choi, Renaud Dreyer, Julian Thurston (aka Karen Barris), David Gabai, William Goldman, Benson Farb, Sergio Fenley, Detlef Hardorp, Craig Hodgson, Christopher Jerdonek, Richard Kenyon, Steven Kerckhoff, Silvio Levy, Robert Meyerhoff, Yair Minsky, Lee Mosher, Igor Rivin, Nicolau Saldanha, Oded Schramm, Richard Schwartz, William Floyd, Biao Wang and Jeffrey Weeks.^{[7]} His son Dylan Thurston is a professor of mathematics at Indiana University.
In later years Thurston widened his attention to include mathematical education and bringing mathematics to the general public. He has served as mathematics editor for Quantum Magazine, a youth science magazine, and was one of the founders of The Geometry Center. As director of Mathematical Sciences Research Institute from 1992 to 1997, he initiated a number of programs designed to increase awareness of mathematics among the public.
In 2005 Thurston won the first AMS Book Prize, for Threedimensional Geometry and Topology. The prize "recognizes an outstanding research book that makes a seminal contribution to the research literature".^{[8]}
In 2012, Thurston was awarded the Leroy P. Steele Prize by the AMS for seminal contribution to research. The citation described his work as having "revolutionized 3manifold theory".^{[9]}
He died on August 21, 2012 in Rochester, New York, of a sinus mucosal melanoma that was diagnosed in 2011.^{[6]}^{[10]}^{[11]}
Thurston and his family had been in the process of moving back to Davis, California, where he was to rejoin the mathematics faculty at UC Davis while his wife completed her veterinary medical degree. Thurston died before he could make the move to California. He had remained with his brother George in Rochester, New York, while his family went ahead of him to California to get settled, waiting for him to gain better physical strength for making the crosscountry trip to California to join them. Bill's health declined rapidly, and the family returned to Rochester to be with him during his final days.
In Thurston's last days, he sometimes used American Sign Language to communicate with his children, Liam and Jade. Bill and Julian had spent a year studying ASL when Jade was an infant, and the family had become somewhat fluent. He also communicated by writing on one of his many pads of paper. One of his last written messages was, "Treasure Island," and this reference remains mysterious to his family.
Selected works
 William Thurston, The geometry and topology of threemanifolds, Princeton lecture notes (1978–1981).
 William Thurston, Threedimensional geometry and topology. Vol. 1. Edited by Silvio Levy. Princeton Mathematical Series, 35. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1997. x+311 pp. ISBN 0691083045
 William Thurston, Hyperbolic structures on 3manifolds. I. Deformation of acylindrical manifolds. Ann. of Math. (2) 124 (1986), no. 2, 203–246.
 William Thurston, Threedimensional manifolds, Kleinian groups and hyperbolic geometry, Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.) 6 (1982), 357–381.
 William Thurston, On the geometry and dynamics of diffeomorphisms of surfaces. Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.) 19 (1988), no. 2, 417–431
 Epstein, David B. A.; Cannon, James W.; Holt, Derek F.; Levy, Silvio V. F.; Paterson, Michael S.; Thurston, William P. Word processing in groups. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Boston, Massachusetts, 1992. xii+330 pp. ISBN 0867202440
 Eliashberg, Yakov M.; Thurston, William P. Confoliations. University Lecture Series, 13. American Mathematical Society, Providence, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 1998. x+66 pp. ISBN 0821807765
 William Thurston, On proof and progress in mathematics. Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.) 30 (1994) 161–177
 William P. Thurston, "Mathematical education". Notices of the AMS 37:7 (September 1990) pp 844–850
See also
References
 ^ http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/themathematicallegacyofwilliamthurston19462012/
 ^ Thurston, William P. (April 1994). "On Proof and Progress in Mathematics". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 30 (2): 161–177. arXiv:math/9404236 . doi:10.1090/S027309791994005026.
 ^ http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2012/08/mathematicsinnovatorwilliamthurstondies65
 ^ http://www.genealogy.math.ndsu.nodak.edu/id.php?id=11749
 ^ "Institute for Advanced Study: A Community of Scholars". Ias.edu. Retrieved 20130906.
 ^ ^{a} ^{b} Leslie Kaufman (August 23, 2012). "William P. Thurston, Theoretical Mathematician, Dies at 65". New York Times. p. B15.
 ^ http://www.genealogy.ams.org/id.php?id=11749
 ^ "William P. Thurston Receives 2005 AMS Book Prize". Retrieved 20080626.
 ^ "AMS prize booklet 2012" (PDF).
 ^ "Department mourns loss of friend and colleague, Bill Thurston", Cornell University
 ^ Obituary from American Mathematical Society
Further reading
 Gabai, David; Kerckhoff, Steve (Coordinating Editors). "William P. Thurston, 1946–2012" (part 1), Notices of the American Mathematical Society, December 2015, Volume 62, Number 11, pp. 1318–1332.
 Gabai, David; Kerckhoff, Steve (Coordinating Editors). "William P. Thurston, 1946–2012" (part 2), Notices of the American Mathematical Society, January 2015, Volume 63, Number 1, pp. 31–41.
External links
 William Thurston at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
 O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "William Thurston", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
 Thurston's page at Cornell
 Tribute and remembrance page at Cornell
 Etienne Ghys : La géométrie et la mode
 1946 births
 2012 deaths
 New College of Florida alumni
 University of California, Berkeley alumni
 Topologists
 Differential geometers
 Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences
 20thcentury American mathematicians
 21stcentury American mathematicians
 Fields Medalists
 Princeton University faculty
 University of California, Berkeley faculty
 Cornell University faculty
 University of California, Davis faculty
 Institute for Advanced Study visiting scholars