New Delhi-Born Akshay Venkatesh Bags Fields Medal For ‘Profound Contributions To Mathematics
New Delhi-born Indian-Australian mathematician Akshay Venkatesh 36, who is currently teaching at Stanford University, has won the Fields Medal for his “profound contributions to an exceptionally broad range of subjects in mathematics” and his “strikingly far-reaching conjectures”.
From being a child prodigy to becoming one of the most renowned researchers in the field of mathematics, Venkatesh’s journey has been full of achievements and accolades. Having moved to Perth with his parents when he was 2, he participated in physics and math Olympiads — the premier international competitions for high school students — and won medals in the two subjects at ages 11 and 12, respectively.He finished high school when he was 13 and went to the University of Western Australia, graduating with first class honours in mathematics in 1997, at the age of 16. In 2002, he earned his PhD at the age of 20. Since then, he has gone from holding a postdoctoral position at MIT to becoming a Clay Research Fellow and, now a professor at Stanford University.Venkatesh has worked at the highest level in number theory, arithmetic geometry, topology, automorphic forms and ergodic theory. His research has been recognised with many awards, including the Ostrowski Prize, the Infosys Prize, the Salem Prize and Sastra Ramanujan Prize.
Recently, Venkatesh and one of his former graduate students found a different way to prove a groundbreaking theorem from the 1980s that stated that one could tell whether a set of equations had a finite number of solutions or infinitely many just by looking at the form of the equations. Although the result is not new, their novel approach could lead to further progress in understanding the solvability of equations.
“He truly is a universal mathematician,” said Jordan Ellenberg, a mathematician at the University of Wisconsin, who has worked on problems with Venkatesh. “His work has gone in a lot of different directions.” The other Fields medalists this year are Peter Scholze, 30, of the University of Bonn; Caucher Birkar, 40, of the University of Cambridge in England; and Alessio Figalli, 34, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
At 30, Scholze is one of the youngest ever recipients of the award. The youngest winner, Jean-Pierre Serre in 1954, was 27. By custom, Fields medals are bestowed to mathematicians 40 years old or younger. Scholze gained prominence when he was still in graduate school in 2010, simplifying a complicated booklength, 288-page proof to a novella-size 37-page version. In his mathematics, he works with fractal structures that he calls perfectoid spaces.
Kurdish refugee turned Cambridge University professor Birkar’s field is algebraic geometry, which investigates connections between numbers and shapes.
The medal, first awarded in 1936, was conceived by John Charles Fields, a Canadian mathematician. Each winner receives a 15,000 Canadian-dollar cash prize.