Major Mathematics awards to two Indian origin scientists

The Hindu Aug 14 2014

Manjul Bhargava and Subhash Khot, are among the eight winners of the prestigious International Mathematical Union awards

Two mathematicians of Indian origin, Manjul Bhargava and Subhash Khot, are among the eight winners of the prestigious awards of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) that were announced at the inaugural of the 9-day International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) which began today at Seoul, Republic of Korea. The President of Korea, Park Geun-hye, gave away the awards.

The ICM is held every four years and, traditionally, the IMU awards are presented at this quadrennial event. The awards include the Fields Medal, the highest award in mathematics, the Rolf Nevanlinna Prize and the Carl Friedrich Gauss Prize. At the last ICM held at Hyderabad, India, two new awards, the Chern Medal and the Leelavati Prize, were added to the existing three awards.

The 40 year-old Canadian-American Manjul Bhargava, a number theorist from Princeton University, is one of the four Fields Medalists chosen for the ICM2014 awards. The Fields Medal is awarded “to recognize outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement”. A minimum of two and a maximum of four Fields Medals are given to mathematicians under the age of 40 on January 1 of the year of the Congress.

“Manjul Bhargava has developed powerful new methods in the geometry of numbers and applied them to count rings of small rank and to bound the average rank of elliptic curves,” said the IMU citation for the award.

The other three Fields Medalists are:

The Brazilian mathematician Arthur Avila (35) of the Paris Diderot University-Paris 7 and Instituto Nacional de Matemática Pura e Aplicada, Rio de Janeiro, who has been awarded “for his profound contributions to dynamical systems theory, which have changed the face of the field, using the powerful idea of renormalizations as a unifying principle”; the British mathematician Martin Hairer (39) of the University of Warwick “for his outstanding contributions to stochastic partial differential equations, and in particular for the creation of a theory of regularity structures for such equations”; and, the Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani (37) of Stanford University “for her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their modulii spaces”.

The 36 year-old IIT Bombay alumnus Subhash Khot, an Indian-American theoretical computer scientist at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University has been chosen for the ICM2014 Rolf Nevanlinna Prize. The Nevanlinna Prize is awarded “for outstanding contributions in mathematical aspects of information sciences”.

“Subhash Khot’s prescient definition of the “Unique Games” problem, and his leadership in the effort to understand its complexity and its pivotal role in the study of efficient approximation of optimization problems, have produced breakthroughs in algorithmic design and approximation hardness, and new exciting interactions between computational complexity, analysis and geometry,” the award citation said.

The Gauss Prize in Applied Mathematics is awarded “to honor scientists whose mathematical research has had an impact outside mathematics – either in technology, in business, or simply in people’s everyday lives”.

The winner of the ICM2014 Gauss Prize is Stanley Osher (72) of University of California, Los Angeles, who has been awarded the Prize “for his influential contributions to several fields in applied mathematics, and for far reaching inventions that have changed our conception of physical, perceptual and mathematical concepts, giving us new tools to apprehend the world.”

The Chern Medal is given “to an individual whose accomplishments warrant the highest level of recognition for outstanding achievements in the field of mathematics”.

The Chern Medal this time goes to the American algebraic geometer Phillip Griffiths (76) “for his groundbreaking and transformative development of transcendental methods in complex geometry, particularly his seminal work in Hodge theory and periods of algebraic varieties”.

Unlike the other awards, the Leelavati Prize is not given for achievements in mathematics research but for outstanding public outreach work in mathematics. Proposed by India, it was originally intended as a one-time award using the grant from the Norwegian Abel Foundation. Thanks to the efforts by Indian mathematicians in finding a sponsor to make it a regular affair, it has now been instituted as a recurring four-yearly award under the IMU charter to be given away at the closing ceremony of the ICM. The award is now being sponsored by Infosys, the Indian IT major.

The ICM2014 Leelavati Prize has been given to the Argentine Adrián Paenza (65) “for his decisive contributions to changing the mind of a whole country about the way it perceives mathematics in daily life, and in particular for his books, his TV programmes, and his unique gift of enthusiasm and passion in communicating the beauty and joy of mathematics”.

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