Conversations in Science
for K-12 Educators

A program conceived and organized by the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the collaboration of the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Edgewood Sonderegger Science Center.

Thursday, May 11, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

The Number Theory of Partitions

Ken Ono
Manasse Professor of Letters and Science, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Therefore, there are 5 partitions of the number 4. But (as happens in Number Theory) the seemingly simple business of counting the ways to break a number into parts leads quickly to some difficult and beautiful problems. Partitions play important roles in such diverse areas of mathematics such as combinatorics, Lie Theory, Representation Theory, Mathematical Physics, and the theory of Special Functions, but we shall concentrate on their role in Number Theory. We shall give an account of the impact of Leonhard Euler, Freeman Dyson, and Srinivasa Ramanujan on the subject, and describe some of the recent advances in the subject.

Ken Ono is the Solle P. and Margaret Manasse Professor of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. After receiving his PhD in 1993 from UCLA, Ono held positions at the University of Illinois and the University of Georgia. He was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study for two years before moving to Penn State University, where he earned the title of Louis J. Martarano Professor of Mathematics before moving to Wisconsin. Since 1994, Ono has authored or co-authored 105 papers on Number Theory and related topics, and he has written four books. He is an editor of eight professional journals. Ono has distinguished himself by winning many of the most prestigious awards available to scientists in this country. He has received the NSF CAREER award, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Clinton, a David and Lucille Packard Research Fellowslhip, an H.I. Romnes Fellowship, and a John S. Guggenheim Fellowship. Last year in a ceremony at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C., Ono was awarded the National Science Foundation Director’s Distinguished Teaching Scholar Award, the highest honor bestowed by the NSF for excellence in research and education.