This award given every four years, considered the equivalent of a “Mathematics Nobel”, also crowned the American-South Korean researcher based in the United States June Huh and the Briton James Maynard.

The prize, consisting of a gold medal and a cash prize of 15,000 Canadian dollars, is awarded by the International Mathematical Union. It celebrates the “exceptional discoveries” of researchers under the age of 40.

The announcement was made at a ceremony in Helsinki as part of the International Congress of Mathematicians. This was originally to be held in St. Petersburg, Russia, but was relocated to Helsinki due to the war in Ukraine.

“The barbaric war that Russia continues to wage against Ukraine has left no other alternative,” regretted the president of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) Carlos Kenig, opening the ceremony.

– “Pride” for the 13th Frenchman –

At 36, Hugo Duminil-Copin, a specialist in statistical physics, is the 13th French winner of the Fields medal. The latest, Cédric Villani, was in 2010. “Congratulations! This distinction shows the vitality and excellence of our French School of Mathematics”, reacted President Emmanuel Macron in a tweet.

“I feel a lot of pride. Hugo Duminil-Copin is a somewhat unusual character, because of the excellence of his CV but also the dynamic of collective work” that he instilled in the community, declared to AFP the Minister of Research Sylvie Retailleau, who had recruited the mathematician when she was president of the University of Paris-Saclay.

Appointed professor at the age of 29, the probabilistic mathematician divides his time between the Institute of Advanced Scientific Studies, near Paris, and the University of Geneva.

“Statistical physics is the study of the properties of complex systems. I try to understand how certain phase transitions take place, like the one with magnets”, explained the lucky winner, present at the ceremony like the other three. winners.

His work has opened up “several new directions of research”, underlines the jury. For applications as varied as the management of urban flows, the anticipation of climatic phenomena, the spread of infectious diseases, MRI…

– “My life has changed forever” –

“The barbaric war that Russia continues to wage against Ukraine has left no other alternative”, regretted the President of the Union

The second woman to win the award in its 80-year history, Maryna Viazovska was born 37 years ago in Ukraine, then in the Soviet Union. Since 2017, she has been a professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland.

When Ukraine was invaded in February, “my life changed forever,” she said.

The mathematician received the reward – decided before the war – for having solved a version of a centuries-old problem, that of the compact stacking of spheres.

This “problem of the merchant of oranges” has tormented mathematicians since the 16th century, when the question arose of the densest possible stacking of cannonballs.

A stacking that becomes more complicated when we move to mathematical dimensions larger than three-dimensional space. In dimension 8, something remarkable but elusive was happening – a kind of perfect symmetry.

“Mathematicians had been breaking their teeth over the problem for several decades, even the greatest specialists had given up,” Renaud Coulangeon, lecturer at the University of Bordeaux, told AFP. Maryna Viazovska pulled off a “tour de force” by finding “the magic proof” of optimal stacking in this dimension, remembers this mathematician.

Stacks of large spheres are useful, for example, for error-correcting codes for disturbances in telecommunications signals.

In 2014, Iranian Maryam Mirzakhani, who died of cancer three years later, was the first woman to win the Fields Medal.

35-year-old Briton James Maynard receives the medal for contributions to analytical number theory, “which have led to major advances in the understanding of the structure of numbers”, greets the jury.

This professor at the University of Oxford studies prime numbers, still poorly understood integers that are only divisible by integers other than 1 and themselves. “I look for order in complicated objects”, summed up the British winner.

Professor at Princeton University in the United States, June Huh, 39, was selected for having “transformed” the field of combinatorial geometry, “using methods from Hodge theory, tropical geometry and theory of singularities”.

“I grew up in Korea and dreamed of being a poet. With mathematics, I wander into the geometric realm of my imagination,” he said.

str-ehu-juc-pcl / cel / fio