Fields Medalists 2014!

The 2014 Fields medalists have been announced, and the winners are:

  • Artur Avila (IMPA – Dynamical Systems): “for his profound contributions to dynamical systems theory, which have changed the face of the field, using the powerful idea of renormalization as a unifying principle.”
  • Manjul Bhargava (Princeton – Number Theory): “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.”
  • Martin Hairer (University of Warwick – Stochastic PDE’s): “for his outstanding contributions to the theory of stochastic partial differential equations, and in particular for the creation of a theory of regularity structures for such equations.”
  • Maryam Mirzakhani (Stanford – Teichmuller Theory & Ergodic Theory): “for her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.”

The big news, aside from the announcement itself, is that for the first time in its almost 80 year history the Fields Medal is recognizing the outstanding work of a female mathematician! Hopefully this will continue in the future, and the award will continue to become more inclusive. Congratulations to these four outstanding mathematicians! (Hopefully in the coming days I’ll have time to track down/write a more complete biography/research sketches for the winners, but for right now you’ll just have to settle for their Wiki entry or homepage.)

Update #1 (8/12/14 – 1:50pm): I added the prized citations listed by the International Mathematical Union, which can be found here. The IMU also has brief sketches of each of their works.

Update #2 (8/12/14 – 7:43pm): It seems that traditional media sources have caught wind of this, and are beginning to release their stories on the announcement. Here are a couple of the more memorable quotes from some of these:

  • A Women Has Won the Fields Medal (Slate): “Which — and I apologize to mathematicians out there for whatever I do to butcher this description— roughly means that she considers abstract questions related to non-Euclidean entities such as, for example, the surface of a pretzel.”
  • Top Math Prize Has Its First Female Winner (NYT): “While women have reached parity in many academic fields, mathematics is still dominated by men, who earn about 70 percent of the doctoral degrees. The disparity is even more striking at the highest echelons. Since 2003, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has awarded the Abel Prize, recognizing outstanding mathematicians with a monetary award of about $1 million; all 14 recipients so far are men. No woman has won the Wolf Prize in Mathematics, another prestigious award.”
  • Top Mathematics Prize Awarded to Women for First Time (Time): “Daubechies added: “At the IMU we believe that mathematical talent is spread randomly and uniformly over the Earth – it is just opportunity that is not. We hope very much that by making more opportunities available – for women, or people from developing countries – we will see more of them at the very top not just in the rank and file.”’
  • Stanford’s Maryam Mirzakhani wins Fields Medal (Stanford): ‘”I don’t have any particular recipe,” Mirzakhani said of her approach to developing new proofs. “It is the reason why doing research is challenging as well as attractive. It is like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck you might find a way out.”‘

As you can see much of the focus is rightfully on the ground breaking recognition of Prof. Mirzakhani. That said most of the current articles are somewhat shallow, and I hope in the  coming days this inspires a more widespread and thoughtful discussion of the systemic barriers that have existed and continue to exist in the mathematical community, and how we can work to make mathematics more inclusive. (Remember this moment is remarkable in part because it took 70+ years and 52 medals before it happened…)

Some of the best coverage I’ve seen has come from the Simons Foundation and Quanta Magazine, which has not only great articles on each recipient and their work, but also lovely videos with each winner. (I do wonder how did the manage to get these done so fast. Did someone from the IMU tip them off to who would win (when are winners decided anyways? Or did they just go around to everyone they thought might win, and ask to do a video?)  Either way this is great!  

(PS: I am so excited about all of this that my dinner is now cold because I couldn’t stop… Shoot :/, but really :D)

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