Born in Washington, D.C. to a homemaker and an aeronautical engineer, I received my B.A. from New College after submitting an undergraduate thesis on an intuitionist foundation for topology.
A few years later, I earned my Ph.D. from UC-Berkeley, submitting a dissertation was on Foliations of Three-Manifolds which are Circle Bundles.
Since then, I have done research and taught at the Institute for Advanced Study, MIT, Princeton University, UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, and finally at Cornell University until my death.
Considered a pioneer in the field of low-dimensional topology, I was awarded a Fields Medal for my contributions to the study of 3-manifolds....then later earned the first AMS Book Prize for my text on Three-Dimensional Geometry and Topology...and the Leroy P Steele Prize by research that "revolutionized 3-manifold theory."
I also focused on attempts to both improve math education and bring understandable mathematics to the general public (e.g. I served as Editor of the Quantum Magazine).
In the area of foliation theory (a geometric device used to study manifolds), my steady solution of many outstanding problems resulted in an unusual kind of exodus from the field...as dissertation advisors supposedly warned their students from researching foliation theory because I "was cleaning out the subject."
I have an Erdős number of 2 due to a published article with John Horton Conway....plus I have multiple Erdős paths of length 3 via other researchers.
William Paul Thurston (1946 – 2012)