Royal Society Fellow wins prestigious Fields Medal

13 August 2014

Professor Martin Hairer FRS has won mathematics’ most prestigious prize, the Fields Medal. He is only the ninth UK based mathematician to win the prize in its 80 year history. Professor Hairer was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2014.

Professor Hairer’s major breakthrough was made in the study of stochastic partial differential equations. He has created a new theory that provides tools for attacking problems that up to now had seemed impenetrable.

The subject of differential equations has its roots in the development of calculus by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz in the 17th century. A major motivation at that time was to understand the motion of the planets in the solar system. Newton's laws of motion can be used to formulate a differential equation that describes, for example, the motion of the Earth around the Sun. A solution to such an equation is a function that gives the position of the Earth at any time t.

In the centuries since, differential equations have become ubiquitous across all areas of science and engineering to describe systems that change over time.

Professor Terry Lyons FRS, President of the London Mathematical Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society, said of the award:

“Martin Hairer has done fantastic work, and shifted the landscape in an important field. His deep new understanding exposes a real flaw in previous thinking in this area and opens completely new doors. So I am not at all surprised that he has been elected to the Royal Society, and made a Regius Professor at his home institution, the University of Warwick, as well as receiving this year’s Fröhlich Prize from the London Mathematical Society at this exceptionally early point in his career.

It is simply wonderful for Martin Hairer and for UK mathematics that he has now been awarded the Fields Medal. There is an exceptional depth of mathematical talent in the UK at the moment, and mathematics has never been more important in the way that it underpins so much in our society.”

The Fields Medal is awarded to two, three, or four mathematicians not over 40 years of age at each International Congress of the International Mathematical Union (IMU), a meeting that takes place every four years. It recognizes outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement.

Professor Hairer received this year’s prize alongside Professor Maryam Mirzakhani, Dr Artur Avila, and Professor Manjul Bhargava. Professor Mirzakhani is the first ever female winner of the Fields Medal.

The prizes were presented by the president of South Korea Geun-hye Park in Seoul, where the International Congress for Mathematicians is being held this year.