Indian-Australian wins Fields Medal, also called ‘Nobel Prize of mathematics’

Venkatesh won the honour on Wednesday for his “profound contributions to an exceptionally broad range of subjects in mathematics.”

science Updated: Aug 02, 2018 13:30 IST
HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Fields medal,Akshay Venkatesh,mathematics
(Left to rright) Indian Australian mathematician, Akshay Venkatesh and German mathematician Peter Scholze, two of the four winners of mathematics' prestigious Fields medal, often known as the Nobel prize for math pose at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.(AFP Photo)

Delhi-born Australian mathematician, Akshay Venkatesh, 36, a child prodigy who finished school at the age of 13 and received a PhD at 20, is one of the four recipients of this year’s Fields Medal, the highest honour for a mathematician that is popularly known as the ‘Mathematician’s Nobel Prize’. It is awarded to two to four mathematicians every four years.

“A lot of the time, when you do math, you’re stuck. But you feel privileged to work with it: you have a feeling of transcendence and feel like you’ve been part of something really meaningful,” Venkatesh told AFP.

Venkatesh is recognised for his work in Number Theory — a theoretical branch of mathematics dedicated to studying integers. This has applications in cryptography — writing or solving codes.

He also works with theory of representation (a branch of mathematics that studies abstract algebraic structures), Ergodic Theory, and Automorphic Forms. “I am a number theorist; I study whole numbers, prime numbers, and integers,” said Venkatesh in 2016 after winning the Infosys award.

He added: “I look for new patterns in the arithmetic of numbers. It borders on a huge number of fields of mathematics — differential equation, geometry, theory of symmetry. I have moved around the borders with other fields. It means I have been able to keep learning other things.”

The other recipients of the Fields Medal are Italian Alessio Figalli, Iranian Kurdish Caucher Birkar, and German Peter Scholze.

Each winner receives a $C (CANADIAN DOLLAR) 15,000 r cash prize. The Fields Medal was first awarded in 1932 and is named after Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields.

Venkatesh’s work earned him the Salem Prize in 2007, Sastra Ramanujan Prize in 2008, Infosys Prize in 2016, and Ostrowski Prize in 2017.

Venkatesh was a child prodigy born in New Delhi in 1981. At 11, he won a bronze medal at the International Physics Olympiad and then went on to win two medals at the International Mathematics Olympiad after switching subjects.

At 13, he completed highschool and went to the University of Western Australia. He graduated with first class honours, becoming the youngest to do so. At 20, Venkatesh finished his PhD at Princeton University.

After this, he was awarded a post-doctoral position – an instructor at CLE Moore -- at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a prestigious position offered to recent graduates in the area of Pure Mathematics and previously occupied by prominent figures such as the American John Nash.

In 2004, he became a Clay Research Fellow and was appointed associate professor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. He became a professor at Stanford University at the age of 27, and is currently a faculty member at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS).

First Published: Aug 01, 2018 21:26 IST