https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02752-0 for the rest.Vaughan Jones (1952–2020)
Mathematician whose invention connected knots to quantum physics.
In 1994, mathematician Vaughan Jones walked on stage to address the Italian national academy in Rome’s Palazzo Corsini, lit a cigar and began to blow smoke rings. With a mischievous grin, he told the assembled academics, “When I did this in Berkeley, I almost lost my job.”
Jones had little time for the stuffy halls of academia. He cared about the study of knots, a field launched by nineteenth-century physicists experimenting with smoke rings. In 1990, he became the first New Zealander to be awarded the Fields Medal — for an invention that revolutionized the field of topology, the branch of maths that studies knots and other shapes. He attended the solemn ceremony wearing the jersey of New Zealand’s national rugby team. “He was larger than life in many ways, but at the same time he was very humble,” says mathematician Dietmar Bisch at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, a long-time collaborator and friend. Born in 1952, Jones died suddenly on 6 September, aged 67, from complications of an ear infection.
One of my friends who studied with him at Geneva told me they got awfully drunk after their PhD defenses.