Hugo Duminil-Copin, a 36-year-old mathematician specializing in probability theory, recently became the 13th French person to receive the Fields Medal.
A professor at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES), Duminil-Copin received the award at a ceremony in Helsinki on July 5, 2022, for his work on the absence of interactions between quantum particles.
The other three winners were Korean-American June Huh, an expert in combinatorial algebraic geometry, Briton James Maynard, who specializes in in the study of prime numbers, and Ukrainian Maryna Viazovska. Renowned for her work on the stacking of spheres in more than three-dimensional spaces, the Ukrainian mathematician became the second woman in history to receive this prestigious award.
With this 13th medal, France is now ranked second in the world, just after the United States, which has 14 medals.
The Fields Medal is awarded by the International Mathematical Union. It is presented to a maximum of four mathematicians, under the age of 40, who have made major contributions to the advancement of mathematics. The ceremony has taken place every four years since 1936.
To explain France’s success in the field, Pierre-Michel Menger, professor at the Collège de France, has been analyzing the careers of French winners since the 1980s. His findings have shown that almost all of the French Fields medalists were students at the prestigious École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris.
The only exceptions are Artur Avila, who was educated in Brazil, and Alexander Grothendieck, who was an ENS auditor. Most of them joined the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) after completing their doctorate. Recognized both in France and internationally, the CNRS is the world’s third best research institution, all fields included, according to the 2022 edition of the SCImago Institutions Rankings.