Vietnamese Talents
Vietnamese professor wins prestigious Fields Award
  • | | August 19, 2010 01:58 PM

Indian president Pratibha Pati gives the Fields Medal- the highest honour in Mathematics- to Professor Ngo Bao Chau.

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Vietnamese Math Professor Ngo Bao Chau has just won the Fields Medal at the International Congress of Mathematicians 2010 held in Hyderabad, India today, August 19.

The prestigious Fields Medal has been long regarded as mathematics\' version of the Nobel Prize. It is the first time it has been bestowed upon a Vietnamese, leading millions throughout the country overjoyed with pride.

Ngo, 38, recently made decisive advances in two central areas of modern mathematics: number theory and representation theory. “He proved a basic result, a matching conjecture called ‘the fundamental lemma,’ so named because it represents the central gate for progress in the Langlands program,” said Peter Constantin, the Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor in Mathematics and Chairman of the Mathematics Department of the University of Chicago.

According to Professor Le Tuan Hoa, Vice-Director of the Vietnam Institute of Mathematics, the Fields Medal given to Prof Ngo Bao Chau is not only of significant meaning to Vietnam but also to the region as well as the world. “Vietnam is a poor country which has never showed a strength in science,” Hoa said. “Therefore, this award proves that with proper investment, we can achieve the highest possible achievements in science.”


Time Magazine described the Langlands program as “an ambitious and revolutionary theory” that connects two major branches of mathematics. Named for Robert Langlands, a mathematician at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., the Langlands program consists of a conjectural set of general correspondences between algebraic and geometric objects, Constantin explained. “The proof by Ngo opens dramatically new avenues for the geometric Langlands program,” he said.

Langlands tried to prove the fundamental lemma during the 1970s. In later years, the University of Chicago’s Robert Kottwitz and three colleagues from other institutions developed approaches to the problem. Constantin said Ngo “added numerous striking ideas” to their work in “a 200-page masterpiece.”

Hearing about the good news, Chau’s former teacher Duong Hoang Giang, who taught Ngo Bao Chau from 1987 to 1989 at the Gifted High School of Hanoi National University of Natural Sciences is bursting with happiness, “I am so happy, I remember that Chau had showed a special aptitude for mathematics right from the time he started to study in my class. At that time I had thought that he would succeed if he was trained properly and now my instincts have been proven true.”

PhD Nguyen Vu Luong, head of the Gifted High School said that Chau’s success is not only bringing pride to himself but to all the teachers that have taught him. “He has won a great prize that many countries in the world desire,” he cried out happily, “More than that, what Chau gives us a great encouragement to our education system. We are confident that we can produce many talents for our country as well as for the world.”

Ngo Bao Chau was born in 1972 in the capital city of Hanoi, Vietnam. His father, Ngo Huy Can was a Professor in hydromechanics and his mother, PhD Tran Luu Van Hien, was working at the National Traditional Medicine Hospital.

A native of Hanoi, North Vietnam, Ngo received his doctoral degree from Université Paris-Sud in 1997. Currently a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., Ngo received the Oberwolfach Prize in 2007, the Prix Sophie Germain de l’Académie des Sciences de Paris in 2007 and the Clay Research Award in 2004.

The International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), which will be held in Hyderabad, India from August 19 to 27, is the largest mathematics congress in the world and meets every four years. Held under the auspices of the International Mathematical Union (IMU), each ICM awards the Fields Medal to two, three, or four mathematicians not over 40 years of age. The Fields Medal, which is often described as the “Nobel Prize of Mathematics”, is viewed as the top honour a mathematician can receive.

The Fields Medal is an award that is given at every ICM to no more than four mathematicians under the age of 40. Since the ICM is organised every four years, the Fields Medal is only awarded once every four years. Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields is the award founder.

The three mathematicians who received the Fields Medal with Chau are Elon Lindenstrauss (Israel), Stanislav Smirnov (Russia), and Cedric Villani (France).

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