University of Chicago praise Vietnam’s mathematician Ngô Bao Châu

Professors at the University of Chicago, where Vietnam’s Professor Ngô Bao Châu will join the mathematics faculty on Sept. 1, spoke well of him as he received Thursday the Fields Medal – popularly known as the Nobel Prize of Mathematics.

The US university’s homepage runs a story dated August 19 about the Vietnamese mathematician, who received the medal during the International Congress of Mathematicians in India’s Hyderabad.

A picture of Ngô Bao Châu, Professor in Mathematics, University of Chicago (effective Sept. 1, 2010), seen at the university’s homepage on August 19, 2010 (US time)

Also receiving Fields Medals Thursday were Cédric Villani, Henri Poincaré Institut in Paris; Stanislav Smirnov, University of Geneva; and Elon Lindenstrauss, Princeton University.

The International Congress of Mathematicians cited Ngo “for his proof of the Fundamental Lemma in the theory of automorphic forms through the introduction of new algebro–geometric methods.”

“We congratulate Professor Ngô on his richly deserved Fields Medal,” Robert J. Zimmer, President of the University of Chicago and Professor in Mathematics, wrote in the story.

“We look forward to welcoming him as a new member of our mathematics faculty, which has a long and distinguished history.”

The story wrote, “Ngô’s Fields Medal comes as no surprise, noted Robert Fefferman, Dean of the Physical Sciences Division and the Max Mason Distinguished Service Professor in Mathematics at the University of Chicago.”

“Ngô is just a spectacular young mathematician,” Fefferman said. “The Fields Medal is an appropriate recognition of his great achievement and also a wonderful continuation of a great mathematics tradition at the University of Chicago, a tradition as great as that of any other university in this country.”

The story also wrote, “Ngô had to master a great deal of mathematics in order to prove the fundamental lemma, said Peter Constantin, Mathematics Department Chairman and Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor at UChicago.”

“His very original achievement builds on the combination of decades of work by many great mathematicians,” Constantin said. “It is deep, pure mathematics and has relevance to the world, including high–energy physics, computer science and cryptography.”

Fields Medals are given every four years to the most distinguished mathematicians aged 40 or under. They are regarded as the highest professional honor a mathematician can attain, in part because the Nobel Foundation does not give an award for mathematics.

Seven current or former UChicago mathematicians also are Fields Medalists, according to the university.

The university story wrote that Ngô, 38, comes to UChicago from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. A native of Hanoi, he has made decisive advances in modern mathematics on the frontier of number theory and representation theory. His contribution is the proof of the fundamental lemma of the Langlands Program, which had vexed mathematicians for three decades.

The university explains that in mathematical terms, a “lemma” refers to a formulation that is needed to solve a larger problem. Time magazine listed this work as one of the top 10 scientific discoveries of 2009.

“The proof of the fundamental lemma, which resisted all attempts for nearly three decades, firmly establishes many theorems that had assumed it and paves the way for progress in understanding underlying mathematical structures and possible connections to physics,” according to an article published in the Institute for Advanced Study’s summer 2010 newsletter.

Ngô’s other honors include the Oberwolfach Prize, the Prix Sophie Germain de l’Académie des Sciences de Paris and the Clay Research Award. He also has delivered invited addresses to the International Congress of Mathematicians in 2006 and this year, the University of Chicago said.

Link to the University of Chicago story about Ngô Bao Châu’s Fields Medal

By Tuong Thuy

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