https://www.theguardian.com/science/201 ... -for-mathsFormer refugee among winners of Fields medal – the 'Nobel prize for maths'
Caucher Birkar grew up on a farm near the Kurdish city of Marivan in Iran and spoke little English when he began his PhD
A Kurdish man who came to Britain as a refugee after fleeing conflict two decades ago is one of four men who have been awarded the Fields medal, considered the equivalent of a Nobel prize for mathematics.
The winners of the prize, presented at the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union in Rio de Janeiro, have been announced as Prof Caucher Birkar, 40, from Cambridge University, Prof Akshay Venkatesh, 36, an Australian based at Princeton and Stanford in the US, Prof Alessio Figalli, 34, from ETH in Zurich and Prof Peter Scholze, 30, from Bonn University.
The Fields medal is perhaps the most famous mathematical award. It was first awarded in 1936 and since 1950 has been presented every four years to up to four mathematicians who are under 40. As well as the medal, each recipient receives prize money of 15,000 Canadian dollars (£8,750). With all the prizes this year going to men, the late Maryam Mirzakhani remains the only woman to have received the accolade.
Birkar was born in Marivan in Iran – a Kurdish city heavily affected by the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s – and studied mathematics at the University of Tehran before coming to the UK in 2000. After a year, he was granted refugee status, became a British citizen and began a PhD.
“When I was in school it was a chaotic period, there was the war between Iran and Iraq and the economic situation was pretty bad,” said Birkar. “My parents are farmers, so I spent a huge amount of time actually doing farming. In many ways it was not the ideal place for a kid to get interested in something like mathematics.”
Birkar says it was his brother who at an early age introduced him to more advanced mathematical techniques.
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