Australian Hindu wins Noble prize of Mathematics

Professor Venkatesh, who graduated from the University of Western Australia aged 16 with honours in pure mathematics, has achieved his subject’s highest honour. He has been awarded the Fields Medal, known as the “Nobel Prize for mathematics” — awarded once every four years to between two and four people under the age of 40. It is an amazing achievement for the 36-year-old, who was described as a “prodigy” and a “genius” during his teenage years in Perth.

Venkatesh was born in Delhi, India, to a Tamil family who moved to Perth in Western Australia when he was two years old. He attended Scotch College. His mother, Svetha, is a computer science professor at Deakin University. Venkatesh attended extracurricular training classes for gifted students in the state mathematical olympiad program,[8] and in 1993, whilst aged only 11, he competed at the 24th International Physics Olympiad in Williamsburg, Virginia, winning a bronze medal.[9] The following year, he switched his attention to mathematics and, after placing second in the Australian Mathematical Olympiad,[10] he won a silver medal in the 6th Asian Pacific Mathematics Olympiad,[11] before winning a bronze medal at the 1994 International Mathematical Olympiad held in Hong Kong.[2] He completed his secondary education the same year, turning 13 before entering the University of Western Australia as its youngest ever student. Venkatesh completed the four year course in three years and became, at 16, the youngest person to earn of First Class Honours in pure mathematics from the University.[2] He was awarded the J. A. Woods Memorial Prize as the most outstanding graduand of the year from the Faculties of Science, Engineering, Dentistry, or Medical Science.[12][13]

The Fields Medal,[4][23] is commonly described as the Nobel Prize of mathematics,[24] and Akshay is becoming the second Australian (after Terence Tao)[6] and the second person of Indian descent (after Manjul Bhargava)[7] to be so honoured. The short citation for the medal declared that Venkatesh was being honoured for “his synthesis of analytic number theory, homogeneous dynamics, topology, and representation theory, which has resolved long-standing problems in areas such as the equidistribution of arithmetic objects.”[5] University of Western Australia Professor Michael Giudici said of his former classmate’s work that “[i]f it was easy for me to explain, then he wouldn’t have received the Fields Medal”.[24] Australian mathematician and media personality Adam Spencer said that “[t]his century will be built by mathematicians, whether it’s computer coding, algorithms, machine learning, artificial intelligence, app design and the like” and that “we should acknowledge the magnificence of the mathematical mind.”[23] Director of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute Professor Geoff Prince said “Akshay is an exciting and innovative leader in his field whose work will continue to have wide-ranging implications for mathematics” and a worthy recipient of the Fields medal “given his contribution to improving mathematicians’ understanding of analytic number theory, algebraic number theory, and representation theory”.[25]

 

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