Simons Donation to Stony Brook

Stony Brook announced yesterday that Jim Simons will be making a $25 million dollar donation to the university, focused in the area of mathematics and physics. This is a great deal of money for a math or physics department, and it is the largest single cash donation ever made to any of the SUNY institutions.

Simons was responsible for building up the Stony Brook math department, which he joined as chair in 1968. About his hopes for what his donation will do, he says:

During the past thirty years mathematics and physics have grown increasingly intertwined. This is particularly true in the cases of string theory, quantum field theory and cosmology, which have all depended upon and stimulated advanced work in geometry and topology. Buttressed by its close relationship with Brookhaven National Laboratory and building on a fine faculty already in place we believe our gift can help propel Stony Brook into the very top rank in these central fields.

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13 Responses to Simons Donation to Stony Brook

  1. sunderpeeche says:

    I read this in the newspaper yesterday. Good for Simons. I have no millions to donate. If he has a vision that it will help propel SUNY-SB to the top in string theory, QFT and cosmology (and links between physics + mathematics), and that doesn’t suit the tastes of anyone else at this blog, no matter.

    Fiat Lux.

  2. Who says:

    partisan gloating aside, that kind of private support for mathematics and physics is thrilling.
    I saw Simons out here at the dedication of the Chern auditorium and MSRI expansion, some of which he funded. His brief remarks ahead of the featured talk by Penrose were modest and genuinely funny.
    Never saw a smarter or more gracious donor.

  3. was just wondering says:

    is this the Simons from Chern + Simons

  4. woit says:

    Yes. I should have added an explanatory link to some of the other postings here about Simons, such as

    And I should also point out that I think it is quite reasonable for Simons to list string theory as a topic that has brought together mathematics and physics. It certainly has done that, to good effect.

    By the way, I was a postdoc at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook for three years (back when Yang was the director, and it wasn’t yet named after him). I enjoyed interacting with the people there and with many of the people in the math department. My best wishes to them all in figuring out what to do with the new resources that Simons is providing.

  5. Bert Schroer says:

    I think you mean “physicists” and not physics, unless Lubos has convinced you that string theory is physics.

  6. woit says:


    I did really have in mind that string theory has brought together mathematicians and physicists, but I don’t think the way that I expressed this is really inaccurate. “String theory”, “mathematics” and “physics” are all not very well-defined terms…

  7. sunderpeeche says:

    Once again the silliness about Lubos … why not stick to the good that Simons is doing with his money? We shall see if things spiral downhill from here…..

  8. Bert Schroer says:

    To Peter,
    objection you honor, these days physics and what physicists are doing is not the same.

  9. sunderpeeche says:

    Ach du lieber.

    Pardon the non-idiomatic non-French.

  10. Bert Schroer says:

    The expression “that what physicists are doing” instead of physics is not my invention. It was used by Hirzebruch when he was talking about the Atiyah-Witten ideas and I some of my colleagues found this impressingly careful and farsighted. In fact it has entered my way of looking at things so profoundly that I will always remember it.

  11. Simon says:

    I love the fact that Simons used his considerable math skills to make lots of money to put back into math and phys.
    My only worry is that this might encourage governments to rely even more on private funding for fundamental research

  12. sunderpeeche says:

    Govt funding for research is mainly a post-WW2 thing. Millikan for example had to get private funding for Caltech. The various large telescopes (Yerkes, Hale etc) were all privately funded. The Manhattan Project changed all that. Physicists (nuclear phycists anyway) were perceived as good for making bombs (also ICBMs). The sociology may not be as simple as that, but anyway, govt funding for science is not some long-standing tradition. Funding for fundamental research has traditionally been difficult.

  13. was just wondering says:

    maybe it’s time that we define what ‘physics’ means.

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