British mathematician receives prestigious Fields Medal

British academic James Maynard and Ukrainian expert Maryna Viazovska have been named as two of four recipients of the prestigious Fields Medal – often described as the Nobel Prize in mathematics.

The International Mathematical Union said that Ms Viazovska, holder of the chair of number theory at the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, was honored for her work on the densest packing of identical spheres in eight dimensions.

Alongside Mr. Maynard from the University of Oxford, an expert in analytical number theory, with a particular focus on prime numbers, the other laureates were French mathematician Hugo Duminil-Copin from the University of Geneva and mathematician Korean-American June Huh of Princeton.

Maryna Viazovska (Lehtikuva via AP)

The Fields Medal is awarded every four years to mathematicians under the age of 40.

Recipients are normally announced at the International Congress of Mathematicians, which was originally due to be held in Russia this year but has been moved to Helsinki instead.

International Mathematical Union President Carlos E Kenig said: “The ongoing barbaric war that Russia continues to wage against Ukraine clearly shows that no other alternative was feasible.

Ms Viazovska said Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February had profoundly changed her life and that of all Ukrainians.

Fields Medal WinnersMaryna Vjazovska, James Maynard, June Huh and Hugo Duminil-Copin (Lehtikuva via AP)

“When the war broke out, I couldn’t think of anything else, including math,” she said, adding that teaching had offered some respite.

“When I’m in front of the class, I have to forget everything else because I have to be very focused.

“It made me forget the fear and the pain inside of me.”

Ms Viazovska recently dedicated one of her lectures to Yulia Zdanovksa, a young Ukrainian mathematician and computer scientist from Kharkiv. who was killed in a Russian missile attack.

“When someone like her dies, it’s like the future dies,” Ms Viazovska said.

“Right now, Ukrainians are giving the highest price for our beliefs and for our freedom.”

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