Close on the heels of former IIT professor Sandeep Pandey, who won the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award last month, follows a phenomenal achievement by another IIT professor, though in mathematics.
Manindra Agarwal and two of his students at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, have found a quick way of solving a timeless problem: how to determine whether a given number is a prime number.
Research scholars have been working hard on this problem for the last three decades, but it was Agarwal's team that managed to do what many mathematicians had long regarded as impossible.
Agarwal told rediff.com on telephone that "the urge to work out this problem dates back to 1999, though I started working on it as late as in 2001".
His two junior colleagues, Neeraj Kayal and Nitin Saxena, both working on their doctoral theses under Agarwal's guidance, gave a boost to his efforts. "I must share this achievement with my two young colleagues," the professor confessed, "but of course I owe it all to IIT Kanpur, which has been my school, my lab and my home for several years."
Mathematicians have been burning the midnight oil to devise faster methods of determining whether a number is a prime number, because this is a key to solving other important mathematical problems. In this, it was Agarwal's novel approach that brought him success. "We tried a new approach; our initial success gave us the boost to go ahead and with God's grace we did it," he said.
The 36-year-old professor was born and schooled in Allahabad, after which he joined IIT Kanpur from where he did his graduation and post-graduation, before completing his doctoral thesis on the theory of complexities.
Agarwal then did a four-year stint at the Advanced Institute of Mathematics in Madras before bagging the Humboldt fellowship at the University of Ulm in Germany. He returned to IIT Kanpur as a member of the faculty in the department of computer science in 1997.
IIT Kanpur Director Sanjay Dhande was elated at the news that created headlines in The New York Times. "Agarwal has done proud not only the IITs but also the field of theoretical computer science and computational number theory," he told rediff.com
"This will be listed among one of the greatest achievements in the history of IITs in the country," Dhande exulted. He was confident about Agarwal getting nominated for the world's top honours in mathematics, considering his latest feat.
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