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Indian-origin Mathematician Akshay Venkatesh Wins Fields Medal

New Delhi-born 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


Akshay Venkatesh, a renowned Indian-Australian mathematician, is one of four winners of mathematics’ prestigious Fields medal, known as the Nobel prize for math.

New Delhi-born 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.

The Fields medals are awarded every four years to the most promising mathematicians under the age of 40. The prize was inaugurated in 1932 at the request of Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields, who ran the 1924 Mathematics Congress in Toronto. Each winner receives a 15,000 Canadian-dollar cash prize. At least two, and preferably four people, are always honoured in the award ceremony.

The citation for Venkatesh’s medal — awarded on Thursday at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Rio de Janeiro — highlights his profound contributions to an exceptionally broad range of subjects in mathematics and his strikingly far-reaching conjectures.

The other three winners are: Caucher Birkar, a Cambridge University professor of Iranian Kurdish origin; Germany’s Peter Scholze, who teaches at the University of Bonn and Alessio Figalli, an Italian mathematician at ETH Zurich.


Birkar’s Medal stolen

Upsetting the celebration, someone stole Birkar’s medal after the awards ceremony. Organizers said they were cooperating with authorities to retrieve the prize.

Birkar, a Kurdish refugee from Iran teaching at Cambridge University, put the gold medal, worth around $4,000, in a briefcase and soon afterward realized that it had been stolen, according to event organizers.

Security officials at the Riocentro venue, Riocentro, found the empty briefcase in a nearby pavillion. Police reviewed security tapes and identified two potential suspects.

“The International Congress of Mathematicians is profoundly sorry about the disappearance of the briefcase belonging to mathematician Caucher Birkar, which contained his Fields Medal from the ceremony this morning,” organizers said in a note.

From a child prodigy to renowned researcher

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.

He moved to Perth, Australia, 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 post-doctoral 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 recognized with many awards, including the Ostrowski Prize, the Infosys Prize, the Salem Prize and Sastra Ramanujan Prize.