Putting faces to soul mates

BLOG: Heidelberg Laureate Forum

Laureates of mathematics and computer science meet the next generation
Heidelberg Laureate Forum

Sean: Do you have a soul mate?
Will: Define that.
Sean: Someone you can relate to, someone who opens things up for you.
Will: Sure, I got plenty.
Sean: Well, name them.
Will: Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Frost, O’Conner…

This exchange, taken from Good Will Hunting, illustrates that people we read, respect, and admire can become our soul mates. Of course, the point made in the movie is that introvert intellectuals sometimes have a problem making real friends, i.e., friends that know them in return. But, let us forget about this banal point for the moment.

Scientific papers are dry and uniform in style and rarely have pictures in them, but their authors are actually, believe it or not, human beings, with bodies, souls, wits, ideals, opinions, and, sometimes, even a sense of humour. I have often been surprised to learn that this or that author, who I had read on the driest of subjects, was witty, opinionated, tall, or had some other quality that was not at all apparent from his scientific work.

One of the great things about the Heidelberg Laureate Forum is that the participants will get the opportunity to flesh out, as it were, some of their soul mates. I, for one, look forward to it.

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is a senior software engineer at Google Zürich, where he has contributed to several public launches and submitted ten patent applications since joining Google in 2011. He studied intuitionistic type theory under Per Martin-Löf, who invented the subject. His PhD thesis is published by Springer under the title "Treatise on Intuitionistic Type Theory". Johan is an active member of the academy: he has published several books and scientific papers; he is a reviewer for Zentralblatt MATH; he has delivered dozens of public lectures; and he is frequently consulted as a referee, both internally at Google and for external conference and journal publications.

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