Outstanding in Their Fields…

In case you missed it, Maryam Mirzakhani has been awarded the Fields Medal! This is regarded as the most prestigious prize in mathematics. Here’s a Guardian article covering it at a general level, and here is the page on all the award winners, with more detail on each, at the International Mathematical Union website. The reason this is a big deal (and why it is newsworthy) is because it is the first time the prize has been awarded to a woman. In a world where, despite the number of excellent women mathematicians out there, there is still a perception problem in the general populace about who (or more to the point, what gender) is associated with achievement in mathematics, it is important to note and celebrate such landmarks.

I also note that one of the other 2014 awardees, Artur Avila, is from Brazil! While not covered as much in the press as far as I can see, this is another big landmark. Nobody from Latin America has won the prize before, and there are all sorts of perception bubbles this will help burst too, I hope.

Now, don’t get distracted by people harping on about the relatively small amount of money associated with the prize. That is not how much it is “worth”, as a number of articles keep saying, annoyingly. The prestige of this prize, and many others like it, has nothing whatsoever to do with how much money was won.

Congratulations Maryam Mirzakhani, Artur Avila, and all the awardees!

-cvj

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