The History of Mathematics

Into Modern Mathematics

What are some major modern mathematical awards?

Contrary to the Nobel Prize bypass of mathematics, there are still some prestigious mathematical award-winning ceremonies. One of the oldest is the Fields Medal of the International Mathematical Congress, established in 1932. It has the equivalent prestige of the Nobel with the limitation that it is only awarded for work done by mathematicians younger than 40 years old, and the monetary value is a mere $15,000 in Canadian dollars (or about $14,715 in U.S. dollars at press time).

There are other more recent mathematical awards, too. In 1981, the Rolf Nevanlinna Prize was established, for the mathematical aspects of information science. It was named in honor of former president of the International Mathematical Union, mathematician Rolf Nevanlinna (1895–1980); the medal and cash prize is awarded every four years. In 2003, Norway created the Abel Prize for mathematical achievement. Named after Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel (1802–1829), who proved that solving fifth-degree algebraic equations (quintics) is impossible, the award gives the winner a prize of six million Norwegian kroners (at this writing, about $1,036,000 in American currency).

Another award is the Chern Metal Award, in memory of Chinese mathematician Shiing-Shen Chern (1911–2004), which was first awarded in 2010; it is given every four years on the occasion of the International Congress of Mathematicians. The cash prize of $250,000 U.S. dollars is awarded to any individual—regardless of age or vocation—for outstanding achievements in mathematics. The Carl Friedrich Gauss Prize for Applications in Mathematics, first awarded in 2006, is to honor scientists whose mathematical research has contributed toward technology, business, or in people’s everyday lives—in other words, has had an impact outside of mathematics. (For more information about Gauss, see elsewhere in this chapter, and “Math Basics.”)


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