As Manjul Bhargava became the first mathematician of Indian origin to win the Fields Medal, his contemporaries from India were a proud lot.
“The Indian contingent at ICM Seoul is delighted and excited. He is one of the finest mathematical minds in the world today and much more is expected of him in the future,” said Ramachandran Balasubramanian, director of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai, in an email from Seoul.
“The Fields Medal was long overdue,” said Rajat Tandon, a professor of mathematics at the University of Hyderabad. “Manjul’s approach is often quite simple but extremely creative. He revisits classical problems that have been set aside by others in a completely new way and achieves astounding success,” he said.
Talking about Bhargava’s achievement, professor Dipendra Prasad, School of Mathematics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, said, “I am sure Manjul’s medal will inspire generations of Indian students — many very talented in mathematics — to think of mathematics as a profession, and to give them the confidence that if he could reach the top, some others among them have a chance too.”
Dr Eknath Ghate, scientist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, and Bhargava’s friend said, “His outlook on life is very Indian and he has a keen interest in Indian classical music, languages and food. He is fond of speaking in Hindi and enjoys coming to India. He is simply brilliant.”
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Describing him as cheerful and humble, Dr A Raghuram, head of the mathematics department at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, said Bhargava is the “most original number theorist in the world today”. “He is strikingly original and also an accomplished tabla player. The Indian circle at Princeton says that whenever there is an event or concert at the university, Bhargava often plays the tabla,” said Raghuram. Bhargava had trained under Ustad Zakir Hussain.
IMU in a release said, “when he was a graduate student, Bhargava read the monumental Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, a book about number theory by Carl Friedrich Gauss. All mathematicians know of the Disquisitiones, but few have actually read it, as its notation and computational nature make it difficult for modern readers to follow. Bhargava nevertheless found the book to be a wellspring of inspiration.”