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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #360: August 24, 2006

Gauss Prize for Japanese Math Wizard

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Gauss Prize for Japanese Math Wizard
(AFP) Daily News and Analysis


"The first laureate of the newly created Gauss prize for applications of mathematics is the Japanese mathematician Kiyoshi Ito. The prize honors his achievements in stochastic analysis, a field of mathematics based essentially on his groundbreaking work. Stochastic analysis is the art of modelling random events that can happen literally at any time. ..."

This is how the announcement of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) begins in awarding its "Carl Friedrich Gauss Prize for Applications of Mathematics 2006." The prize was named after Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), known as the "prince of mathematicians" who declared mathematics as "the queen of the sciences."

The field of mathematics is considered by many as one of the most remote areas of study in relation to their daily lives. It seems natural, therefore, that such events as a gathering of mathematicians draw small attention, even if the occasion is a rare - once in four years - event to pay tribute to those with high intellectual levels studying to broaden the scope of human beings in understanding our universe.

This year's International Congress of Mathematicians, convened in Madrid and presided by Spanish King Juan Carlos, did, however, draw a certain level of attention beforehand. Grigory Perelman, one of those awarded the Fields Medal for his proof of the Poincare hypothesis - which remained unsolved since 1904 and listed among seven most difficult mathematical problems of the millennium - rejected the award as the first case ever. Some have raised eyebrows and expressed concerns as to the authenticity of his proof. At the moment, the proof is considered genuine and effective - that is why they decided to reward him anyway - and the incident is accepted as one of his strange characteristics - as such geniuses sometimes possess - knowing he has also rejected some other prizes and scientific degrees.

Fields Medals are known as Nobel Prize for mathematicians, but it is considered more difficult to receive in a number of respects. It is awarded only once in four years, and there is the age limit of 40-years old at the time of earning the prize. It was first awarded in 1936, and after a pause due to the war, was resumed in 1950, and thereon every 4 years. The Fields Medals have the characteristics, and the agenda, to motivate active scholars who are still engaged in the forefronts of mathematical studies - and many those rewarded have indeed made further contributions after receiving the medals.

In explaining the creation of the Gauss Prize, the IMU states, "It seems that only the experts know that mathematics is a driving force behind many modern technologies. The Gauss Prize, to be awarded for the first time in 2006, has been created to help the rest of the world realize this fundamental fact. The prize is to honor scientists whose mathematical research has had an impact outside mathematics - either in technology, in business, or simply in people's everyday lives."

Kiyoshi Ito is 90 years old. His initial theories were published during WWII, when Japan was heading for - as hindsight - the certain defeat, and the paper to print on had already become scarce. He continued on his studies after the war and lectured in a number of universities, including Aarhus (Denmark), Cornell, and Princeton. He was professor at the University of Kyoto until his retirement in 1979.

His study has laid the foundations of the theory of stochastic differential equations and stochastic analysis. The theory has since been applied to many practical fields, but arguably the most prominent was in Wall Street, where the theory provided the basics in developing financial derivatives flourished during recent decades. Myron S. Scholes, a Nobel Prize laureate for economics in 1997, was among many scholars who expressed admiration for Ito's theory. (Of course, the collapse of the Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) in 1998 where Scholes was involved, has nothing to do with, and does not degrade in any way the works of Ito.)

Kiyoshi Ito certainly deserves to be recognized awarded - in fact solidifies the value and purpose of this new Gauss Prize, which is to commemorate those contributed not only in the development of mathematics but also as a result in supporting creation of a better society.

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