NEWS
02/08/2018 10:52 AM IST | Updated 02/08/2018 12:29 PM IST

New Delhi Born Akshay Venkatesh Wins World's Biggest Math Prize

The Fields Medal is awarded every four years.

Fields Medal/ Twitter

Akshay Venkatesh, who was born in New Delhi and moved with parents to Australia when he was two-years-old, has won the Fields Medal, which is often called the Nobel Prize of Mathematics.

The Fields Medal, first awarded in 1936, came into prominence after it was highlighted in the movie Good Will Hunting in 1997. It is awarded to mathematicians 40 years or younger, every four years. Each winner receives a 15,000 Canadian-dollar cash prize.

Venkatesh, a 36-year-old Australian, who is presently teaching at Stanford University in the United States, is among four mathematicians to have received the prestigious award in 2018.

The others are Caucher Birkar, 40, a Kurdish refugee who became a Cambridge University professor, Alessio Figalli, 34, an Italian mathematician at ETH Zurich and Peter Scholze, a mathematics professor at the University of Bonn, who is only 30-years-old.

The Indian-origin professor has been recognized for "profound contributions to an exceptionally broad range of subjects in mathematics, including number theory, homogeneous dynamics, representation theory and arithmetic geometry. He solved many longstanding problems by combining methods from seemingly unrelated areas, presented novel viewpoints on classical problems, and produced strikingly far-reaching conjectures."

His short citation reads, "For his synthesis of analytic number theory, homogeneous dynamics, topology, and representation theory, which has resolved long-standing problems in areas such as the equidistribution of arithmetic objects."

While discussing Venkatesh's work, Jordan Ellenberg, a mathematician at the University of Wisconsin, told The New York Times, "He truly is a universal mathematician. His work has gone in a lot of different directions."

Venkatesh along with one of his former graduate students, Brian Lawrence, recently proved 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, NYT reported.

Ellenberg, who has worked with Venkatesh, told NYT, "That's the nature of the Fields Medal. It is given to people who are in the thick of their mathematical careers. It's not a lifetime achievement award."

Venkatesh, a child prodigy, finished high school when he was 13, and graduated from the University of Western Australia with first class honours in mathematics at the age of 16. He earned his PhD at the age of 20. Before becoming a professor at Stanford University, Venkatesh held a post-doctoral position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was a Clay Research Fellow.

Writing about Venkatesh, Allyn Jackson, a writer and editor specializing in mathematics, said, "Most mathematicians are either problem-solvers or theory-builders. Akshay Venkatesh is both."

"What is more, he is a number theorist who has developed an unusually deep understanding of several areas that are very different from number theory. This breadth of knowledge allows him to situate number theory problems in new contexts that provide just the right setting to highlight the true nature of the problems. Only 36 years of age, Venkatesh will continue to be an outstanding leader," she writes.