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Meet the youngest person to win top maths honour in 50 years

Last updated on: March 11, 2008 14:01 IST

Professor Manjul Bhargava of Princeton University has won the 2008 Frank Nelson Cole Prize in Number Theory, a top award of the American Mathematical Society.

The award, given every three years, is the most prestigious honour in number theory in the world, and is considered one of the highest honours in mathematics.

Bhargava, 32, is the youngest recipient of the prize in over 50 years, the university noted. The award, which carries a $5,000 prize, was presented to him recently at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego, California.

Dr Bhargava was cited for his revolutionary work that introduced new and unexpected ideas into the subject.

"During the past few years, I have had the good fortune of interacting with many wonderful mathematicians - faculty and students - whose friendship and wisdom have been a constant source of inspiration for me," he said.

"I would like to thank them all. In particular, I wish to express my deep gratitude to my graduate school teachers Andrew Wiles, Peter Sarnak, and John Conway, and my undergraduate teachers and mentors Dick Gross, Barry Mazur, Persi Diaconis, Joe Gallian, and Dave Cargo, from whom I have learned, and continue to learn, so much and by whom I have been constantly inspired," he added.

"I am also extremely grateful to Hendrik Lenstra and Don Zagier for their kindness and generosity, and for always being available to discuss interesting mathematics! I thank the Department of Mathematics at Princeton University," he continued, "for providing me with a wonderful work environment, and the Clay Mathematics Institute and the Packard Foundation for funding my work".

"The papers cited above build on ideas that go way back, starting with the mathematical works of Brahmagupta, Gauss, Dirichlet, Eisenstein, and Dedekind, and leading up to the works of modern mathematicians like Delone-Faddeev, Davenport-Heilbronn, Sato-Kimura, Wright-Yukie, and Gan-Gross-Savin. I gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness to all these mathematicians," he said.

He also thanked his family, and Erno Rubik for making the famed Rubik cube.

Born in Hamilton, Canada, Bhargava spent most of his early years in Long Island, New York. He received his AB in mathematics summa cum laude (with highest honours) from Harvard in 1996 and his PhD from Princeton in 2001. After holding visiting positions at MSRI, the Institute for Advanced Study, and Harvard University, he joined the faculty at Princeton as professor of mathematics in 2003. He was also named the Clay Mathematics Institute's first Five-Year Long-Term Prize Fellow in 2001.

An accomplished tabla player whose research interests span various aspects of mathematics, Dr Bhargava has received numerous awards and honours, including the Hoopes Prize for Excellence in Scholarly Work and Research from Harvard University  in 1996, the AMS-MAA-SIAM Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Research in Mathematics in 1997, the MAA Merten M Hasse Prize for Exposition in 2003, the Packard Foundation Fellowship in Science and Engineering in 2004, the Clay Research Award in 2005, the SASTRA Ramanujan Prize in 2005, and the Blumenthal Award for the Advancement of Research in Pure Mathematics in 2005.

He has been a three-time recipient of the Derek Bok Award for Excellence in Teaching, and was named one of Popular Science magazine's 'Brilliant 10' in 2002. He was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Madrid in 2006.
A Correspondent