University President Neil L. Rudenstine named world famous mathematician Barry Mazur the Gerhard Gade University Professor two weeks ago.
Mazur, on leave this year as a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said he was genuinely thrilled to receive the professorship, which is considered one of the University's most prestigious posts.
"I was completely surprised. It was an incredible honor," he said.
A University professorship gives an individual teaching privileges at all of Harvard's graduate schools, as well as in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
In addition to being elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1982, Mazur has been awarded the Cole Prize for a theorem concerning elliptic curves.
Mazur is well-known for his work on topology, and his accomplishments in the area of number theory are widely seen as a factor in the 1996 proof of Fermat's Last Theorem by Andrew Wiles.
"Number theory is at a wonderful stage nowadays...It is central to much of mathematics," Mazur said. "Number theory certainly draws its inspiration and its tools from many branches of mathematics, and, especially these days, also from physics."
Many students said they were impressed with Mazur's new status.
"He's done work on mathematics that is phenomenal," said David G. Purdy '99, referring to the professor's award-winning work.
David L. McAdams '95, who took Mazur's "Complex Analysis" class, remembers Mazur as "a charismatic man and a very good teacher."
"Barry is admired around the world for his brilliant contributions in number theory, etc.," McAdams, now a graduate student at Stanford, said in an e-mail.
No doubt Barry's research eminence and his personal charisma were factors in his appointment to a University professorship," he said.
Rudenstine also last named new University professors last June, when he honored three faculty members with the title.
Harvard Business School Professor Robert C. Merton was named the first John and Natty McArthur University Professor.
Two professors from the Afro-American studies department were also named University Professors. Cornel R. West '74 received the first Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professorship and William Julius Wilson was named the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor.