Vietnam’s Ngo Bao Chau wins “Nobel Prize of Mathematics”

Professor Ngo Bao Chau won the Fields Medal – popularly known as the Nobel Prize for mathematics – in India on August 19, 2010, becoming the first Vietnamese to take the world renowned prize.

August 19 is also the anniversary of the August Revolution of Vietnam.

The 38-year-old, born in Hanoi, was awarded his medal in a ceremony at the International Congress of Mathematicians meeting in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

Professor Ngo Bao Chau (R) receives the Fields Medal from India President Pratibha Patil at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Hyderabad on August 19, 2010

The mathematics professor at Université Paris-Sud in Orsay, France is best-known for proving the fundamental lemma proposed by Robert Langlands and Diana Shelstad, an achievement which was selected by Time Magazine as one of the Top Ten Scientific Discoveries of 2009.

He has accepted a professorship at the University Of Chicago, USA, which he said would start this September.

For his works, the professor was awarded the 2004 Clay Research Award and the 2007 Oberwolfach Prize.

India hosts the International Congress of Mathematicians, the largest congregation of mathematicians all over the world, at the Hyderabad International Convention Center in nine days from August 19.

India President Pratibha Patil inaugurated the event and then presented the highest award in mathematics to four mathematicians in recognition of their contribution to the field. The three other winners are Israeli Elon Lindenstrauss, Stanislav Smirnov of Russia and Cédric Villani from France.

Over 3,000 delegates from about 75 countries attend the congress being held under the auspices of International Mathematical Union, according to Times of India.

Founded at the behest of Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields, the medal was first awarded in 1936 to Finnish mathematician Lars Ahlfors and American mathematician Jesse Douglas, and has been periodically awarded since 1950.

Presented every four years to two, three, or four mathematicians, who must be under 40 years of age, the medal comes with a cash prize of 15,000 Canadian dollars (US$14,600).

Professor Chau is the only son of a physicist, Professor Ngo Huy Can, and mother Tran Luu Van Hien, who was a medical doctor. In 1988, he won a gold medal at the 29th International Mathematical Olympiad as an eleventh grader and repeated the same feat the following year, becoming the first Vietnamese student to win two IMO gold medals. Of which, the first one was won with a perfect score, which is 42/42.

After high school, he was offered by the French government a scholarship to study in Paris. He obtained a PhD in 1997 from the Université Paris-Sud in 1997 under the supervision of Gérard Laumon, and became a professor there in 2005.

By Tuong Thuy

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