Fields Medal

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The Fields Medal, officially known as International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics, is a prize awarded to two, three, or four mathematicians not over 40 years of age at each International Congress of the International Mathematical Union (IMU), a meeting that takes place every four years. The colloquial name is in honour of Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields, because of the contribution of his estate to the continuation of the prize[1]. The Fields Medal is often viewed as the top honor a mathematician under 40 can receive.[2][3] It comes with a monetary award, which since 2006 is C$15,000.[4][5] Founded at the behest of Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields,[6] the medal was first awarded in 1936, to Finnish mathematician Lars Ahlfors and American mathematician Jesse Douglas, and has been awarded every four years since 1950. Its purpose is to give recognition and support to younger mathematical researchers who have made major contributions.

Contents

Conditions of the award

The Fields Medal is often described as the "Nobel Prize of Mathematics" for the prestige it carries,[7] though in most other ways the relatively new Abel Prize is a more direct analogue. In contrast with the Nobel Prize, the Fields Medal is awarded only every four years. The Medal also has an age limit: a recipient's 40th birthday must not occur before 1 January of the year in which the Fields Medal is awarded. As a result some great mathematicians have missed it by having done their best work (or having had their work recognized) too late in life. The 40-year rule is based on Fields' desire that

... while it was in recognition of work already done, it was at the same time intended to be an encouragement for further achievement on the part of the recipients and a stimulus to renewed effort on the part of others.

The monetary award is much lower than the roughly US$1.5 million given with each Nobel prize. Finally, Fields Medals have generally been awarded for a body of work, rather than for a particular result; and instead of a direct citation there is a speech of congratulation.

Other major awards in mathematics, such as the Abel Prize, recognise lifetime achievement, again making them different in kind from the Nobels, although the Abel has a large monetary prize like a Nobel. The Fields Medal has the prestige of the selection by the IMU, which represents the world mathematical community.

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