Department mourns loss of friend and colleague, Bill Thurston

photo of Anil Nerode and Richard Soare

Bill Thurston died peacefully, surrounded by family on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 in Rochester, of a melanoma that was diagnosed a year ago.

Bill was the one who taught us all what geometry should be. Whole generations have had their approach to mathematics changed and focused by Bill’s marvelous vision. The beauty and depth of his results have changed mathematics forever.

Perhaps his most famous and astounding discovery was the Geometrization Conjecture in 3 dimensions, which he formulated in complete generality and proved in many cases and which led to Perelman’s extraordinary full solution.

All those who knew Bill, especially his many students and collaborators, know that nothing can replace his insight and personality. We are all terribly saddened by this loss. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Share your thoughts, stories, and reminiscences about Bill’s life


Education and career

1967 B.A., New College in Sarasota, Florida
1972 Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Advisor: Morris W. Hirsch
Dissertation titled Foliations of Three-Manifolds which are Circle Bundles
1972-1973 Assistant to John Milnor, Institute for Advanced Study
Fall 1973 Assistant Professor, MIT
Spring 1974 Sloan Fellow, MIT
1974 Professor of Mathematics, Princeton University
1982-1983 Ulam Visiting Professor, University of Colorado at Boulder
1991-1996 Professor of Mathematics, University of California at Berkeley
1992-1997 Director, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute
1996-2003 Professor of Mathematics, University of California at Davis
2003-2012 Jacob Gould Schurman Professor, Department of Mathematics and the Faculty of Computing and Information Science, Cornell University


1974–1975 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship
1976 Oswald Veblen Prize in Geometry
1978 Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1979 Alan T. Waterman Award
1982 Fields Medal
Citation: “Revolutionized study of topology in 2 and 3 dimensions, showing interplay between analysis, topology, and geometry. Contributed idea that very large class of closed 3-manifolds carry a hyperbolic structure.”
1983 Elected Member of the National Academy of Sciences
2005 AMS Book Prize
2012 AMS Leroy P. Steele Prize for a Seminal Contribution to Research

Last modified:January 2, 2013