Young Brazilian mathematician Artur Avila is one of the four 2014 recipients of the prestigious Fields Prize – recognized by academics as the equivalent of a Nobel Prize. It is awarded by the International Mathematical Union and the winners were announced 13th August.
Paris-based Dr Avila, who is director of research at the CNRS
Institut de Mathématiques de Jussieu-Paris Rive Gauche in the French capital, is a native of Rio de Janeiro who who earned his PhD in dynamical systems at the age of 21. The International Mathematical Union has made Avila the first Brazilian recipient of the Fields Medal, awarding the 35-year-old the prize for his “profound contributions to dynamical systems theory” that “have changed the face of the field,” according to the prize selection committee.
First awarded in 1936 and then every four years since 1950, the medal is awarded to between two and four researchers, who must be no older than 40, because Fields wanted to encourage the winners to strive for “further achievement” as well as recognise their success.
Four of the medals will be presented in Seoul at the International Congress of Mathematicians, held every four years.
Avila spends half the year in Paris as a research director at CNRS, France’s largest state-run science organization, and the other half in Rio as a fellow at IMPA, Brazil’s national institute for pure and applied mathematics. A major focus at IMPA is dynamical systems, the branch of mathematics that studies systems that evolve over time according to some set of rules — a collection of planets moving around a star, for example, or a billiard ball bouncing around a table, or a population of organisms that grows or declines over time.
Avila, who was born to disadvantaged parents and was spotted as a high flyer in the field of mathematics at public competitions or Olympiads, is an eccentric figure who likes to work with abstract problems on Rio’s crowded beaches.
You can read a detailed profile and interview with Avila by clicking here.
You can read about other recipients of the Fields Medal, including the first-ever woman, Prof Maryam Mirzakhani from Iran, by clicking here.