I don’t normally post on current events, but this one is special. Pictured above is Maryam Mirzakhani, a professor of mathematics at Stanford University. Why am I posting about her? Well, she’s the first woman EVER to win the prestigious Fields Medal. The Fields Medal, which is awarded to Mathematicians, is considered to be the equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Fields Medal, officially known as International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics, is a prize awarded to between two and four mathematicians under 40-years of age at each International Congress of the International Mathematical Union (IMU). The IMU is held every four years and was held at Seoul, South Korea. The Fields Medal is often viewed as the greatest honor a mathematician can receive.
The International Math Union website describes how the Fields Medal program came about:
At the 1924 International Congress of Mathematicians in Toronto, a resolution was adopted that at each ICM, two gold medals should be awarded to recognize outstanding mathematical achievement. Professor J. C. Fields, a Canadian mathematician who was Secretary of the 1924 Congress, later donated funds establishing the medals, which were named in his honor. In 1966 it was agreed that, in light of the great expansion of mathematical research, up to four medals could be awarded at each Congress.
The Fields Institute, Toronto, Canada, organizes the Fields Medal Symposium. The goals of the program for the Fields Medal Symposium are to present the work of a Fields Medalist and its impact, to explore the potential for future directions and areas of its influence, to provide inspiration to the next generations of mathematicians and scientists, as well as to present the Medalist to a broader public.
The medal (which is shown above) is etched and translated in the following manner by Eberhard Knobloch, August 5, 1998 from the IMU website for the Fields Medal:
The head represents Archimedes facing right.
(1) In the field is the word in Greek capitals and
(2) the artist’s monogram and date RTM, MCNXXXIII.
(3) The inscription reads: TRANSIRE SUUM PECTUS MUNDOQUE POTIRI.
The inscriptions mean:
(1) “of Archimedes”, namely the face of Archimedes.
(2) R(obert) T(ait) M(cKenzie), that is the name of the Canadian sculptor who designed the medal. The correct date would read: “MCMXXXIII” or 1933. The second letter M has to be substituted for the false N.
(3) “To transcend one’s spirit and to take hold of (to master) the world”.
The inscription on the tablet reads:
EX TOTO ORBE
OB SCRIPTA INSIGNIA
It means: “The mathematicians having congregated from the whole world awarded (this medal) because of outstanding writings”. The verb form “tribuere” (the first “e” is a long vowel) is a short form of “tribuerunt”. In the background there is a representation of Archimedes’ sphere being inscribed in a cylinder.
Mirzakhani’s medal was awarded to her for her work on pure mathematics, specifically the behavior of dynamical systems.
Congratulations to Maryam Mirzakhani on her accomplishment. She is definitely a role model that all of us can look up to.
For Further Reading: