Huh June, a 39-year-old professor at the Korea Institute for Advanced Study, wrote a new chapter of history, becoming the first Korean to ever win the Fields Medal, an award dubbed the Nobel Prize in mathematics.
On Tuesday, the International Mathematical Union (IMU) announced the winners of Fields medals for 2022, including Prof. Huh June, Prof. Maryna Viazovska of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, Prof. Hugo Duminil-Copin of the Institute of Advanced Scientific Studies of France, and Prof. James Maynard of Oxford University.
The Fields Medal is one of the most prestigious prizes in mathematics awarded to selected mathematicians under 40 for their distinguished accomplishments, and its announcement and award ceremony takes place at the opening of the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union every four years. It is often called the “Nobel Prize in mathematics” as there is no Nobel Prize for math.
Since the inception in 1936, a total of 64 mathematicians have received the Fields medals including the four this year. Ten out of the 64 awardees are Asian, but only six have finished their tertiary education in Asia. In fact, there have been only two Asian winners over the last 30 years – Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician who passed away after winning the medal in 2014, and Prof. Huh.
Huh was recognized for advancing geometric combinatorics by utilizing algebraic geometry in solving various combinatorial questions.
“Prof. Huh solved the conundrum posed by combinatorics by connecting the dots between the wildly different two fields of algebraic geometry and combinatorics,” said Carlos Kenig, the president of IMU. “These are rare findings, and this is the first time that anyone has won the Fields medal with the studies of combinatorics.”