Italian wins world's most prestigious mathematics medal

Figalli, far right, is one of the winners of this year's Fields medal

RIO DE JANEIRO - An Italian professor brings home the Nobel prize for mathematics, the Fields medal, 44 years after the last time an Italian won the award.  

 Alessio Figalli has been a professor at Zurich Polytechnic since 2016 and in his own research, has worked on the theory of optimal transport, with particular emphasis on the regularity theory of optimal transport maps. At the age of just 34, Figalli has produced 140 publications. He is the second Italian to ever be awarded the medal, 44 years after the first Italian winner, Enrico Bombieri. 

 “It is a great pleasure to have been awarded this medal, and I’m finding it hard to believe that it’s happened. It will certainly motivate me to continue my research work and to produce studies of the highest level,” were the words of Figalli's emotional acceptance speech at the ceremony.

 The international congress for mathematics which took place in Rio de Janeiro this year is where the Fields medal was presented to the four 2018 winners. The board of judges praised Figalli for his “contribution to optimising transport, thanks to his theories of partial derivative equations and probability.”

 The Fields medal is the most prestigious mathematics award in the world, and its bestowal to an Italian is a testament to Italian mathematic excellence. The director of the Pisa Scuola Normale Superiore, Vincenzo Barone, the undergraduate place of study of Figalli, responded in a note to the Italian victory: “The award proves on a world stage the tradition of educational excellence of the distinguished Scuola Normale Superiore.”

 The award was started in 1936 and is awarded to mathematicians under the age of 40, once every four years.

 One of the other 2018 winners comes from the UK; Caucher Birkar, a Kurdish man who came to Britain as a refugee after fleeing conflict two decades ago.

 With all the prizes this year going to men, Maryam Mirzakhani remains the only woman to have received the accolade.