Paris, 19 August 2010

2010 Fields Medal awarded to mathematician Ngô Bao Châu

The 2010 Fields Medal has been awarded to Ngô Bao Châu, a professor at the Laboratoire de Mathématiques d'Orsay (Orsay Mathematics Laboratory, Université Paris Sud 11/CNRS), currently visiting the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (USA). The medal, which is the world's most prestigious mathematics distinction, was presented to Ngô Bao Châu for his proof of the "fundamental lemma." Long stated as a conjecture, the fundamental lemma is the cornerstone of a theory introduced in the late seventies establishing relations between two distinct fields of mathematics, arithmetics and group theory.

Held every four years, the International Congress of Mathematicians is the most important scientific conference in the discipline. This year, four participants(1) were awarded the Fields Medal, the highest distinction for mathematicians under the age of 40, including Ngô Bao Châu, professor at the Laboratoire de Mathématiques d'Orsay (Orsay Mathematics Laboratory, Université Paris Sud 11/CNRS). He is the fourth Fields laureate from this laboratory, joining Jean-Christophe Yoccoz (1994), Laurent Lafforgue (2002) and Wendelin Werner (2006).

Ngô Bao Châu was born in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 1972 and became a French citizen in early 2010. During his student years he won two gold medals at the International Mathematical Olympiad, in 1988 and 1989. From 1990 to 1992 he studied in Paris, first at Université Pierre et Marie Curie and then at the ENS (École Normale Supérieure). He went on to earn a master's degree and in 1997 completed a doctoral thesis at Université Paris-Sud 11 under the mentorship of Gérard Laumon(2). A researcher at CNRS from 1998 to 2004, Ngô was awarded an HDR degree (Habilitation à Diriger les Recherches, qualifying the holder to head research teams and supervise Ph.D. students) by Université Paris-Nord in 2003. Since 2004 he has served as a professor at Université Paris-Sud 11, seconded to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (USA) for the past three years.

Ngô Bao Châu specializes in automorphic forms and representations, a branch of the general field of numbers theory involving the study of the divisibility properties of whole numbers. One famous example of work in this field is Fermat's Theorem, proposed by mathematician Pierre de Fermat in 1637 and proved by Andrew Wiles in 1994. Ngô Bao Châu focuses on the "Langlands Program," named after the Canadian-born American mathematician Robert Langlands, who in 1967 formulated a theory establishing fundamental links between arithmetics and group theory, previously held to be two distinct fields of mathematics.

In early 2008, Ngô Bao Châu offered a proof of the "fundamental lemma," a conjecture formulated(3) in an article published in 1987, of which a specific case had been proved in the seventies. Recently verified by experts in the field, Ngô Bao Châu's proof, which exceeds 150 pages, was hailed in Time magazine in December 2009 as one of the top ten scientific discoveries of the year.

In addition to the awarding of this Fields Medal, the program of the 2010 International Congress of Mathematicians confirms the worldwide influence of the Laboratoire de Mathématiques d'Orsay: of the 22 French mathematicians invited to present papers (a figure that makes France the second most heavily represented country, behind the United States), 13 have earned a Ph.D. or HDR degree at Université Paris-Sud 11, or are  currently professors there. The university itself is therefore being rewarded for its research and doctoral programs in mathematics.


© J.F. Dars


(1) The other winners of the 2010 Fields Medal are: Cédric Villani, professor of mathematics at the ENS (École Normale Supérieure) in Lyon and director of the Institut Henri Poincaré (UPMC/CNRS), Elon Lindenstrauss, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Stanislav Smirnov of UNIGE (University of Geneva).

(2) Gérard Laumon, research director at the Laboratoire de Mathématiques d'Orsay, also taught Laurent Lafforgue, Fields laureate in 2002.

(3) This conjecture was formulated by mathematicians Robert Langlands and Diana Shelstad, respectively from Canada and Australia.


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