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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 35, August 27, 2006, Article 10

RUSSIAN WINNER SNUBS FIELDS MEDAL

According to news reports, "A reclusive Russian won the math world's
highest honour Tuesday for solving a problem that has stumped some of
the discipline's greatest minds for a century — but he refused the
award.

Grigory Perelman, a 40-year-old native of St. Petersburg, won a Fields
Medal — often described as math's equivalent of the Nobel prize — for
a breakthrough in the study of shapes that experts say might help
scientists figure out the shape of the universe."

"If his proof stands the test of time, Mr. Perelman will win all or
part of the $1-million prize money. That prize should be announced in
about two years.

The Poincare conjecture essentially says that in three dimensions you
cannot transform a doughnut shape into a sphere without ripping it,
although any shape without a hole can be stretched or shrunk into a
sphere."

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

"The Fields Medals are commonly regarded as mathematics' closest analog
to the Nobel Prize (which does not exist in mathematics), and are awarded
every four years by the International Mathematical Union to one or more
outstanding researchers. "Fields Medals" are more properly known by
their official name, "International medals for outstanding discoveries
in mathematics."

The Field Medals were first proposed at the 1924 International Congress
of Mathematicians in Toronto, where a resolution was adopted stating that
at each subsequent conference, two gold medals should be awarded to
recognize outstanding mathematical achievement."

"The Fields Medal is made of gold, and shows the head of Archimedes
(287-212 BC) together with a quotation attributed to him: "Transire suum
pectus mundoque potiri" ("Rise above oneself and grasp the world"). The
reverse side bears the inscription: "Congregati ex toto orbe mathematici
ob scripta insignia tribuere" ("the mathematicians assembled here from
all over the world pay tribute for outstanding work")."

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

"Fields specified that the medals should “each contain at least 200
dollars worth of gold and be of a fair size, probably 7.5 centimetres
in diameter. Because of their international character the language to
be employed it would seem should be Latin or Greek”.

The medal does in fact meet these specifications (in 1933 dollars!).
Its monetary value has at least on one occasion been of critical
importance: in the turmoil at the end of World War II, Ahlfors became
separated from his wife, and was allowed to leave Finland with only
10 crowns. He smuggled out his Fields Medal and pawned it, enabling him
to reach his wife in Zürich. (He later retrieved it with the help of
some Swiss friends). The medal, struck every four years in the Royal
Canadian Mint, was designed by the Canadian sculptor R. Tait McKenzie.
For the obverse, he chose a picture of Archimedes from a collection
at Columbia University."

To read the complete article and view images of the medal, see:
Full Story

The Wikipedia notes two references to the Fields medal in popular
culture: "In the 1997 film Good Will Hunting, fictional MIT professor
Gerald Lambeau (played by Stellan Skarsgård) is described as having
been awarded a Fields Medal for his work in combinatorial mathematics.

In the film A Beautiful Mind, John Forbes Nash (played by Russell
Crowe) complains about not winning the Fields Medal."

[So what happens to the awarded but unaccepted medal?  Are any Fields
medals in the hands of collectors?  Has any collector or institution
assembled a collection of medals for science achievement such as the
Fields medal?  Has anyone ever written a book (or decent monograph)
on the subject of such rare and prestigious medals?  Will your editor
ever run out of questions?  -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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