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What is happening in Mathematics?

Fields Medals at Madrid

Every four years the International Mathematical Union organises a grand jamboree of the world’s research mathematicians and their families, the International Congress of Mathematicians. In August 2006 the ICM took place in Madrid, with 3,441 participants. 

A high point of the ICM is the award of up to four Fields Medals. The medals were established in the will of the Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields to recognise outstanding research in mathematics, and the first was awarded in 1936. Although their monetary value is small, they are considered comparable in prestige to the Nobel Prize. Fields wanted the medals to encourage future achievements as well as rewarding existing work, so mathematicians must be under 40 to be eligible.  

At the Madrid ICM the Fields medal was awarded to four mathematicians:

Andrei Okounkov

Grigori Perelman

Terence Tao

Wendelin Werner 

Three were present at the Congress to accept the medal. There was much controversy and press comment when the fourth, Perelman, declined the award—an unprecedented event as far as the Fields medals are concerned. The official position is that the award still stands.

Fri 01 December 2006, 14:35

This section is written and compiled by Professor Ian Stewart