AIP Recognizes Mathematical Physicist Mahouton Norbert Hounkonnou with 2023 Tate Medal for International Leadership in Physics
The medal was awarded to Hounkonnou for his efforts to build and maintain an enduring transnational African mathematical physics research and education community.
WASHINGTON, March 21, 2023 – AIP has selected Mahouton Norbert Hounkonnou as the winner of the 2023 John Torrence Tate Medal for International Leadership in Physics.
The Tate Medal, named after the celebrated American physicist John Torrence Tate and established in 1959, is awarded to non-U.S. citizens for leadership, research contributions, and service to the physics community. The award includes a certificate of recognition, bronze medal, and $10,000 prize. Hounkonnou will be presented with the medal during an upcoming physical sciences community event.
“I feel great pride to be one of the eminent personalities who have won this prestigious Tate Medal,” said Hounkonnou. “This is a recognition of the fruits of my team’s tireless efforts over the last nearly four decades. Hard work always pays off.”
The award committee selected Hounkonnou “for leadership in building and maintaining an enduring transnational African mathematical physics research and education community, in particular the COPROMAPH conferences and schools and Academy level international networks.”
“I warmly congratulate Professor Hounkonnou for winning the 2023 Tate Award,” said Michael Moloney, CEO of AIP. “By establishing schools and workshops focused on mathematical physics and hosted at African institutions, he has provided young African researchers with accessible networking and research opportunities. In doing so, he has created a hub for the development of mathematical physics in Africa.”
Hounkonnou was born in Adjohoun, a town in the Wémè (Ouémé) valley located in southern Benin. He completed his secondary education at College Notre Dame de Lourdes in Porto-Novo, Benin, before obtaining his Master of Sciences at the Polytechnic Institute of Kharkov, Ukraine. He continued his studies at the University of Perpignan, France, then completed his doctorate at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.
Now a full professor at the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin, Hounkonnou is also the president of the International Chair in Mathematical Physics and Applications (ICMPA-UNESCO Chair).
“Together with my peers at the international level, I created multi-university master’s degree and Ph.D. programs in mathematics with connections, motivations, or applications in physics, and in physics with important relations to mathematics,” he said. “Our alumni now occupy positions of faculty deans, school directors, and full professors, in African, European, and North American universities. They are also in the private sector or at the head of national or regional institutions.”
Hounkonnou and the ICMPA-UNESCO Chair also host an international conference and school series on Contemporary Problems in Mathematical Physics (COPROMAPH) every two years. COPROMAPH brings together specialists in mathematics and theoretical and mathematical physics with a school and workshop component. The educational component lays the groundwork for collaboration through lectures, tutorials, and seminars. Later, the workshop component includes presentations of scientific results on contemporary problems. Holding the meetings at African institutions makes them more accessible to a large number of Africans.
“These schools provide a unique opportunity for mathematicians of the African continent to meet and initiate stimulating collaborations both within Africa as well as with scientists from other parts of the world,” said Hounkonnou. “It is expected that the greatest benefit will go to the younger generation of African scientists, whose responsibility it will be to build the basis for a scientific and technological tradition and expertise in Africa.”
Hounkonnou emphasizes the importance of international collaboration, especially in establishing the COPROMAPH schools and workshops.
“My objective has been to train young, brilliant mathematical physicists to be capable of solving the problems related to the development of their countries,” he said. “I did not hesitate to call on world experts to assist. Their contributions – through teaching, co-supervision of research work, and conferences and communications on the results of their own research – have made it possible to raise the level of training and research in our countries.”
In his own research, Hounkonnou applies rigorous mathematical treatment to physics and physics-inspired problems. More specifically, he investigates integrable systems, mathematical methods for quantum theory, and statistical mechanics of complex phenomena, among other topics.
Hounkonnou is the current president of the Network of African Science Academies and the co-chair of the network of African, European, and Mediterranean Academies for Science Education. For two terms of three years each, he was president of the Benin National Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. He is a Knight of the National Order of Benin. He is also member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, the Hassan II Academy of Science and Technology (Morocco), the African Academy of Sciences, The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), and other learned societies.
“I would like to thank my colleagues who supported my nomination for the Tate Medal,” said Hounkonnou. “I dedicate this medal to my wife, Lidwine, to our children, Cornélia, Doriane, and Mehdy, to all my collaborators and students, to all those who have supported me during all these years, to my faithful collaborator of all time, Professor Ezinvi Baloïtcha, and to the whole team of the ICMPA-UNESCO Chair, to whom I say, ‘bravo.’ I’m also grateful to Dr. Laure Gouba for her constant support.”
ABOUT THE TATE MEDAL
Named for John Torrence Tate in honor of his service to the physics community, the Tate Medal recognizes non-US citizens for international leadership in physics, with an emphasis on leadership, statesmanship, and service to the physics community, as opposed to research achievement. Awarded every two years, it consists of a certificate, a bronze medal, and a $10,000 cash award. For more information, see https://www.aip.org/aip/awards/tate-medal .
The mission of AIP (American Institute of Physics ) is to advance, promote, and serve the physical sciences for the benefit of humanity. AIP is a federation that advances the success of our 10 Member Societies and an institute that operates as a center of excellence supporting the physical sciences enterprise. In its role as an institute, AIP uses policy analysis, social science, and historical research to promote future progress in the physical sciences. AIP is a 501(c)(3) membership corporation of scientific societies.