by Elton Gomes
Indian-born Akshay Venkatesh, a renowned Australian mathematician, is one of the four winners of the prestigious Fields medal, also known as the Nobel prize for math. Born in New Delhi, 36-year-old Venkatesh won the medal for his profound contributions to an exceptionally wide range of subjects in mathematics.
The Fields medals are awarded every year to the most promising mathematicians under 40 years of age. The prize began in 1932 at the request of Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields, who was in charge of the 1924 Mathematics Congress in Toronto, Canada. Each winner of the Fields medal gets a 15,000 Canadian-dollar cash prize.
Alongside Venkatesh, 30-year-old German professor Peter Scholze; 40-year-old Caucher Birkar; and 34-year-old Alessio Figalli will receive this year’s Fields medal. Scholze currently teaches at the University of Bonn and is one of the youngest winners to receive the medal. Birkar hails from the Kurdistan province of Iran and came to the UK as a refugee. Figalli is a specialist on optimal transport, or the most efficient way of moving materials from one place to another.
From a child prodigy to becoming a renowned mathematician, Venkatesh’s journey can be said to be significantly rewarding. Venkatesh participated in physics and math Olympiads and won medals in the two subjects at ages 11 and 12, respectively. He breezed though high school at the age of 13 and enrolled in the University of Western Australia. In 1997, Venkatesh graduated with first class mathematics honours at the age of 16. Four years later, at the age of 20, Venkatesh earned his PhD.
Thereafter, Venkatesh held a post-doctoral position at MIT. He then became a Clay Research Fellow, and is currently a professor at Stanford University. Apart from winning the Fields medal, Venkatesh has also won the the Ostrowski Prize, the Infosys Prize, the Salem Prize and Sastra Ramanujan Prize.
Venkatesh has been recognised for his work in Number Theory, which is the theoretical branch of mathematics dedicated to studying integers. Number theory can be applied in writing or solving codes.
In addition, he works with theory of representation, Ergodic Theory, and Automorphic Forms. “I am a number theorist; I study whole numbers, prime numbers, and integers,” Venkatesh said after winning the Infosys award in 2016, Hindustan Times reported.
In other instance, he spoke about how one might get stuck while doing math. He said, “A lot of the time, when you do math, you’re stuck. But you feel privileged to work with it: you have a feeling of transcendence and feel like you’ve been part of something really meaningful,” as per the Hindustan Times.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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