Fields Medal



The Fields Medal is a prize awarded to two, three, or four mathematicians not over forty years of age at each International Congress of the International Mathematical Union, a meeting that takes place once every four years.

Founded at the behest of Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields, the medal was first awarded in 1936 and has been regularly awarded since 1950. Its purpose is to give recognition and support to younger mathematical researchers who have already made major contributions.

The Fields Medal is widely viewed to be the top honor a mathematician can receive. It comes with a monetary award, which in 2006, was C$15,000 (US$13,400 or €10,550).

The Fields Medal is often described as the "Nobel Prize of mathematics", referring to its prestige within the mathematics field. But this comparison is not entirely accurate because the Fields Medal is only awarded every four years, and its recipients cannot be over the age of 40. (To be precise, a recipient's 40th birthday must not occur before January 1 of the year in which the Fields Medals are awarded.) Also, the monetary award given to each medalist is much lower than the US$1.3 million or so given to a Nobel laureate when the prize is not shared. Finally, Fields Medals have generally been awarded for a body of work, rather than for a particular result; instead of a direct citation there is a speech of congratulation.

Some other major awards in mathematics exist, but recognise a lifetime achievement, again making them different in kind from the Nobels. The Fields Medal has the prestige of the selection by the IMU, in other words the world mathematical community.

* 2006: Andrei Okounkov (Russia), Grigori Perelman (Russia) (declined award), Terence Tao (Australia), Wendelin Werner (France)

* 2002: Laurent Lafforgue (France), Vladimir Voevodsky (Russia)

* 1998: Richard Ewen Borcherds (UK), William Timothy Gowers (UK), Maxim Kontsevich (Russia), Curtis T. McMullen (U.S.)

* 1994: Efim Isakovich Zelmanov (Russia), Pierre-Louis Lions (France), Jean Bourgain (Belgium), Jean-Christophe Yoccoz (France)

* 1990: Vladimir Drinfeld (USSR), Vaughan Frederick Randal Jones (New Zealand), Shigefumi Mori (Japan), Edward Witten (U.S.)

* 1986: Simon Donaldson (UK), Gerd Faltings (West Germany), Michael Freedman (U.S.)

* 1982: Alain Connes (France), William Thurston (U.S.), Shing-Tung Yau (China)

* 1978: Pierre Deligne (Belgium), Charles Fefferman (U.S.), Grigory Margulis (USSR), Daniel Quillen (U.S.)

* 1974: Enrico Bombieri (Italy), David Mumford (U.S.)

* 1970: Alan Baker (UK), Heisuke Hironaka (Japan), Sergei Petrovich Novikov (USSR), John Griggs Thompson (U.S.)

* 1966: Michael Atiyah (UK), Paul Joseph Cohen (U.S.), Alexander Grothendieck (France), Stephen Smale (U.S.)

* 1962: Lars Hörmander (Sweden), John Milnor (U.S.)

* 1958: Klaus Roth (UK), René Thom (France)

* 1954: Kunihiko Kodaira (Japan), Jean-Pierre Serre (France)

* 1950: Laurent Schwartz (France), Atle Selberg (Norway)

* 1936: Lars Ahlfors (Finland), Jesse Douglas (U.S.)

All 8 French recipients studied at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.

In 1966, Alexander Grothendieck boycotted his own Fields Medal ceremony, held in Moscow, to protest Soviet military actions taking place in Eastern Europe.

In 1970, Sergei Petrovich Novikov, due to restrictions placed on him by the Soviet government, was unable to travel to the congress in Nice to receive his medal.

In 1978, Gregori Margulis, due to restrictions placed on him by the Soviet government, was unable to travel to the congress in Helsinki to receive his medal. The award was accepted on his behalf by Jacques Tits, who said in his address:

I cannot but express my deep disappointment — no doubt shared by many people here — in the absence of Margulis from this ceremony. In view of the symbolic meaning of this city of Helsinki, I had indeed grounds to hope that I would have a chance at last to meet a mathematician whom I know only through his work and for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration.

In 1982, the congress was due to be held in Warsaw but had to be rescheduled to the next year, due to political instability. The awards were announced at the ninth General Assembly of the IMU earlier in the year and awarded at the 1983 Warsaw congress.

In 1998, at the ICM, Andrew Wiles was presented by the chair of the Fields Medal Committee, Yuri Manin, with the first-ever IMU silver plaque in recognition of his proof of Fermat's last theorem. Don Zagier referred to the plaque as a "quantized Fields Medal". Accounts of this award frequently make reference that at the time of the award Wiles was over the age limit for the Fields medal (e.g., see). Although Wiles was slightly over the age limit in 1994, he was thought to be a favorite to win the medal; however a gap (later resolved by Wiles) in the proof was found in 1993.

In 2006, Grigori Perelman, credited with proving the Poincaré conjecture, refused his Fields Medal and did not attend the congress.

* In the film Good Will Hunting, fictional MIT professor Gerald Lambeau (played by Stellan Skarsgård) is described as having been awarded a Fields Medal for his work in combinatorial mathematics.

* In the film A Beautiful Mind, John Forbes Nash (played by Russell Crowe) complains about not winning the Fields Medal.

* In the television series EUReKA, Nathan Stark (played by Ed Quinn) reveals in the episode Dr. Nobel had won the Fields Medal.

* On an episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert rants about not receiving the Fields Medal.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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