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The American Mathematical Society awarded the 2008 Levi L. Conant prize
for expository writing to
AIM Executive Director Brian Conrey. The citation reads:
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The Riemann Hypothesis (RH) has a strong claim to being the outstanding open problem in mathematics. Much has been written about RH, but rarely with anything like the scope that Conrey covers in but a dozen pages (The Riemann Hypothesis, Notices Amer. Math. Soc. 50 (2003), 341-353), outlining the mathematical context that justifies the importance of RH, key moments in the problem's 140 plus-year history, known partial results and blind alleys, various threads of numerical and theoretical evidence, and suggestive connections with disparate branches of mathematics and theoretical physics. The mathematical exposition is enhanced by the judicious use of anecdotes illustrating the human drama of the quest for a proof and of figures that help the reader visualize the zeta function as a function of a complex variable and the key connections between the distribution of prime numbers, the distribution of the zeros of the Riemann zeta function, and conjecturally also the distribution of the eigenvalues of random Hermitian operators.

Conrey remarks on one of those fascinating connections (Gauss's class number problem and a "conspiracy of L-functions") that "we seem to be players in the middle of a mystery novel." The same can be said of the status of the Riemann Hypothesis itself. Conrey has given a masterly and lucid introduction to the plot thus far, to the detectives who brought us to this point, and to what may be called the main suspects: the mathematical structures that might be expected to figure in the eventual resolution of this central mystery of modern mathematics.