Fields Medal & Personages : FRANCE equal first with USA


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In August 2014 at the International Mathematical Union’s Congress in Seoul, South Korea, the prestigious, four-yearly, Fields Medal awards, considered as the Nobel Prize for Mathematics, were announced.  The four laureates included the French-Brazilian Artur Avila based at the Institut de Mathématiques de Jussieu in Paris and who also works at the National Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics in Rio de Janeiro.


Artur Avila began his education in Brazil and continued it in France thanks to a scientific cooperation agreement between the two countries. He is the 13th French winner which makes France equal first with the US in the Fields Medal ranking list by present nationality. This is also the 6th consecutive time that a French mathematician has received the award.


List of French winners:


1950 – Laurent Schwartz

1954 – Jean-Pierre Serre

(youngest ever winner of the Fields Medal at 27)

1958 – René Thom

1966 – Alexandre Grothendick

(trained and spent much of his working life in France, believed to have become French citizen in the 1980s)

1982 – Alain Connes

1994 – Pierre-Louis Lions and Jean-Christophe Yoccoz

1998 – Maxime Kontsevitch (Franco-Russian)

2002 – Laurent Lafforgue

2006 – Wendelin Werner

2010 – Cédric Villani and Ngô Bào Chu (Franco-Vietnamese)

2014 – Artur Avila (Franco-Brazilian)

The 2014 awards saw :

● the first woman laureate, Maryam Mirzakhani of Iran who is a professor of mathematics at Stanford University

● the first laureate of Indian origin, Manjul Bhargava who is Canadian-American


Ranking list by institutions :


In the ranking list of Fields Medalists by institutions, Princeton University comes out first with 8 medalists followed by University of Paris in second place with 7 medalists.


The Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES) situated just south of Paris comes fourth with 5 medalists.  Pierre Deligne (1978) and Jean Bourgain (1994) who were at the IHES when they received the Fields Medal are not included in the ‘list of French winners’ above as they are not French but Belgians.


The success of the French school of Mathematics is hardly surprising as France has some of the biggest names in the history of mathematics : Alembert, Descartes, Fermat, Fourier, L’Hopital, Pascal, Galois, Poisson, etc.


The most famous theorem in the history of mathematics is thought to be Fermat’s Last Theorem. Pierre de Fermat seems to have had unpublished proof of his theorem in 1637. The first published and validated proof of this theorem took place in 1995 after 358 years (more than three and a half centuries) of effort by mathematicians around the world.


Sources : Financial times, CNRS web site,

Online publishing, August 20th, 2014

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