August 14, 2022

Ukrainian mathematician becomes second woman to win field’s top prize

The Fields Medal, solid gold: the obverse represents the profile of Archimedes with his motto.

The Fields Medal, solid gold: the obverse represents the profile of Archimedes with his motto.

Fields medals are awarded every 4 years.Credit: Hubert Fanthomme/Paris Match/Getty

Ukrainian number theorist Maryna Viazovska is among the four winners of the 2022 Fields Medals, one of the highest honours in mathematics that is conventionally awarded to people aged under 40. The other winners are James Maynard, a number theorist at the University of Oxford, UK; June Huh, a specialist in combinatorics at Princeton University in New Jersey; and Hugo Duminil-Copin, who studies statistical physics at the Institute of Advanced Scientific Studies (IHES) near Paris. The International Mathematical Union (IMU) announced the winners at an award ceremony in Helsinki on 5 July.

Viazovska, who is based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), is the second woman ever to earn the award. She is best known for her solution of the sphere packing problem — finding the arrangement of spheres that can take up the largest portion of the volume, similar to how oranges are packed on trays in a grocer’s shop — in eight dimensions.

The Fields Medals and other IMU prizes are normally announced at the opening of the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), which takes place every four years. This year’s congress was scheduled to begin on 6 July in St. Petersburg, Russia, but the plan was scrapped following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Instead, the awards ceremony was moved to Helsinki and the congress will take place as a virtual event.

This is a breaking news story that will be updated.

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