Ngo Bao Chau has won the world’s top mathematics prize, the Fields Medal, making Vietnam only the second Asian country to have won it since its inception in 1936.
Ngo Bao Chau (R) is awarded the 2010 Fields Medal for for his proof of the Fundamental Lemma in the theory of automorphic forms through the introduction of new algebro-geometric methods. Photo: Tuoi Tre "> Ngo Bao Chau (R) is awarded the 2010 Fields Medal for for his proof of the Fundamental Lemma in the theory of automorphic forms through the introduction of new algebro-geometric methods.
The Fields Medals were awarded Thursday at the opening ceremony of the International Congress of Mathematicians in Hyderabad, India.
Chau, 38, and another mathematician from Brazil were invited to give speeches at the congress.
In the past most mathematicians under 40 delivering speeches at the quadrennial conference have won the Fields Medal.
Since mathematics is excluded from the Nobel Prize, the Fields Medal is viewed as the top honor in the field, with a maximum of four mathematicians honored at each congress.
Japan is the only Asian country to have won the prize before, with Japanese winning it in 1954, 1970, and 1990.
Chau became well known in 1997 after successfully proving the fundamental lemma, an achievement selected by Time magazine as one of the Top 10 Scientific Discoveries of 2009 and fetching him the Oberwolfach prize in Germany in 2007.
Chau came up with the proof while working at Paris-Sud University and the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) at Princeton, the US.
Mathematicians around the world “breathed a sigh of relief” when the proof was checked this year and confirmed to be correct, TIME said.
“It’s as if people were working on the far side of the river waiting for someone to throw this bridge across,” Peter Sarnak, a number theorist at IAS was quoted by TIME as saying about the fundamental lemma.
“And now, all of a sudden, everyone’s work on the other side of the river has been proven.”
In 2004 Chau became the first Vietnamese to win the prestigious Clay Research Award given annually by the Clay Mathematics Institute based in Massachusetts, the US. A year later he became the youngest professor in Vietnam.
Currently, he works at the IAS and has accepted a professorship at the University of Chicago.