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What is the Fields Medal, so-called ‘Mathematics Nobel’ awarded to Ukrainian professor and three others?

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    13th Jul, 2022

Context

Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Viazovska was recently named as one of four recipients of the 2022 Fields Medal, an honour that is often described the Nobel Prize in mathematics.

  • The other winners were French mathematician Hugo Duminil-Copin of the University of Geneva; Korean-American June Huh of Princeton; and Briton James Maynard of the University of Oxford.

About

Fields Medal

  • The Fields Medal is awarded by the International Mathematical Union (IMU), an international non-governmental and non-profit scientific organisation that aims to promote international cooperation in mathematics.
  • The Fields Medal is awarded every four years to one or more mathematicians under the age of 40 in recognition of “outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement”.
  • The honour carries a physical medal of 14K gold, 63.5 mm in diameter and weighing 169 g, and with a unit price of approximately 5,500 Canadian dollars. There is also a cash award of CAD 15,000.

History of the Medal

  • The 1924 ICM in Toronto adopted a resolution that at each conference, two gold medals would be awarded to recognise outstanding mathematical achievement.
  • The Canadian mathematician Prof J C Fields, who was secretary of the 1924 Congress, later donated funds to establish the medals, which were named in his honour.
  • In 1966, it was agreed that, in light of the great expansion of mathematical research, up to four medals could be awarded at each Congress.
  • The Fields Medals were first awarded in 1936 in Oslo, Norway. The Fields medals were conceieved by John Charles Fields, a Canadian mathematician.
  • The winners are announced at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), which was supposed to be held in Russia this year, but was moved to Helsinki.

Indian-origin winners

  • Among the more than 60 mathematicians who have been awarded the Fields Medal since 1936, there are two of Indian origin —
    • Akshay Venkatesh of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, who won in 2018, the last time the honour was announced
    • Manjul Bhargava of the Department of Mathematics at Princeton University, in 2014.
  • Venkatesh was awarded the Medal “for his synthesis of analytic number theory, homogeneous dynamics, topology, and representation theory, which has resolved long-standing problems in areas such as the equi-distribution of arithmetic objects”.
  • Bhargava was honoured for “developing powerful new methods in the geometry of numbers, which he applied to count rings of small rank and to bound the average rank of elliptic curves”.

Fields Medal 2022 Awardee:

  • Maryna Viazovska, Ukraine:
    • The IMU recognisedViazovska’s work on the sphere-packing problem in 8 and 24 dimensions. Previously, the problem had been solved for only three dimensions or fewer.
    • She is only the second female Fields Medalist, after the Iranian Maryam Mirzakhani in 2014.
  • Briton James Maynard of the University of Oxford: Maynard’s work involved understanding the gaps between prime numbers.
  • Hugo Duminil-Copi, France: His contribution was in the theory of phase transitions – such as water turning to ice, or evaporating into steam – in statistical physics.
  • Korean-American June Huh: He is recognised for a range of work including the innovative use of geometry in the field of combinatorics, the mathematics of counting and arranging.
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