Gilles Brassard wins a Breakthrough Award

Gilles Brassard wins a Breakthrough Award

One of the most prestigious science awards in the world went to Gilles Brassard, Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Operational Research at the Université de Montréal and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Quantum Computing.

Sometimes referred to as the “Oscars of Science,” the Breakthrough Prizes recognize scientists around the world who make important contributions to human knowledge. The Fundamental Physics category applies to all physicists working on the greatest mysteries of the universe.

And this year, Gilles Brassard, along with his colleague Charles H. Bennett from the IBM Research Center in upstate New York, will receive the award.

“Professor Brassard is a pioneer in quantum computing, a visionary researcher who has caused a real revolution in his field,” said UdeM Rector Daniel Jutras. This extremely prestigious award, which he receives today, recognizes his contribution to science and the international importance of his discoveries. It fills the Université de Montréal with great pride to have a professor of his caliber in their community.”

Revolutionary advances

Working together for many years, Gilles Brassard and Charles H. Bennett developed the first quantum cryptography technique in 1984, which makes it possible to encode information in a highly confidential manner. An unprecedented development at the intersection of physics and computer science, two disciplines previously far apart but, once brought together, turned out to be two sides of the same coin.

This discovery had significant implications. It has spawned an entire industry from nothing that is projected to reach billions of dollars a year over the next five years. Nowadays practically all communications, financial transactions, confidential but also ordinary e-mails use quantum cryptography.

In 1993, the two scientists and other colleagues succeeded in teleporting photons over a short distance. Quantum teleportation is without a doubt the most iconic effect of quantum information, but it is also the cornerstone of this technology.

Thanks to their visionary spirit, Gilles Brassard and Charles H. Bennett shaped the future of information processing, physics and computer science in general. Their historical breakthroughs testify to a break with conventional thinking and prove once again that basic research brings very concrete benefits to society.

An excellent teacher… not just a little bit!

Gilles Brassard is considered one of the most brilliant computer scientists in the world. He began a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Montreal at the age of 13, becoming an assistant professor at the age of 24 and a full professor at the age of 33.

A young mathematical prodigy, he has received numerous awards over the years, including the Rank Prize, the Wolf Prize in Physics (often referred to as the Antechamber of the Nobel Laureate), the Micius Quantum Prize, and the BBVA Foundation’s Frontiers of Knowledge Award.

He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec and the Order of Canada. Alongside eminent scientists such as Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, he is one of the few French-speaking Quebec members of the Royal Society of London.

In Canada, he has been awarded the Killam Prize, the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Marie Victorin Prize, and the Acfas-Urgel-Archambault Prize.

English video produced by the Breakthrough Prize organization.