The Fields Medal is awarded to the 2nd woman in history: a Ukrainian mathematician

Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Viazovska has become the second woman to win the Fields Medal, often called the Nobel Prize in Mathematics.

Viazovska is one of four medal recipients, each of whom was chosen by the executive committee of the International Mathematical Union. The other three recipients are Hugo Duminil-Copin (France), June Huh (USA) and James Maynard (UK).

The Fields Medal is awarded every four years to at least two, and preferably four, mathematicians who have achieved “outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement”.

Each beneficiary must be under the age of 40.

Viazovska, who currently works at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, received the medal for, among other things, solving the problem of packing the sphere into eight dimensions.

We know that a hexagonal arrangement is the most efficient way to pack circles together, and in 1998 Thomas Hales proved that the densest way to pack spheres together in three dimensions was an arrangement called “lattice packing face-centered cubic”.

Until Viazovska’s work with her colleagues, no one had been able to prove the packing of the sphere for higher dimensions. She also used the mathematics that solved this problem to make developments in Fourier analysis.

Prior to her victory, the only woman to win the Fields Medal in its 86-year history was Maryam Mirzakhani, who won in 2014 and died in 2017.

In an interview organized by the International Mathematical Union, Viazovska said that the first step towards solving the problem of packing the eight-dimensional sphere came to her during a train journey back from a conference in Bonn. , in Germany.

“It was summer, it was rather stuffy on the train. On the train, I thought, since nothing seems to work, let me write the problem down one more time,” Viazovska said.

“In school, we were taught that we have a head full of nonsense until we write things down to put them in order. So I write it down and get this functional equation. I look at it and I think, ‘I should be able to solve it.’ And, indeed, I solved it – it only took a few months.

Viazovska also commented on the Russian invasion of her home country, Ukraine.

“I know people in Moscow, educated and cultured people, who at the same time support everything that is happening at the moment, everything that Russia is doing. Some of these people even go to church. Unfortunately, neither education nor profession can prevent people from becoming cannibals,” she said.

Learn more about the 2018 Fields Medal: Aussie Fields Medalist Speaks

“I realize this is all happening 3,000 kilometers away from me – I don’t see any bombs flying at me, the children are safe and healthy. No one will break into my house and “denazify” me.

“But I want Ukrainians to know they have our support. That I feel solidarity with them and that it’s not just me who feels it.

“For me, mathematics and strong emotions are incompatible. When the war broke out, at first I couldn’t do anything at all.

“Now I have a feeling that something needs to be done. I read the news of a professor from Uzhhorod University, who is giving lectures by Zoom directly from the trenches. This story made me very inspired.”

Viazovska, who was aware of her Fields Medal earned before the invasion began, was particularly keen to highlight the plight of Ukrainian refugees and the effect of the war on Ukrainian education.

“For example, Kyiv did not suffer as much as eastern cities, but 25% of students left Kyiv University. A large number of Ukrainian children have now left for Europe, and they have to adapt to a completely different educational system in a different language. And if school education is free almost everywhere, the situation for university students is more difficult – it is difficult for them to find a place in a European university,” she said.

“I want to thank everyone who helps the refugees. Especially now, when the initial rally of support may gradually fade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.