The Fields Medal is awarded every four years on the occasion of the International Congress of Mathematicians to recognize outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement.
The Fields Medal Committee is chosen by the Executive Committee of the International Mathematical Union and is normally chaired by the IMU President. It is asked to choose at least two, with a strong preference for four, Fields Medallists, and to have regard in its choice to representing a diversity of mathematical fields. A candidate's 40th birthday must not occur before January 1st of the year of the Congress at which the Fields Medals are awarded.
The name of the Chair of the Committee is made public, but the names of other members of the Committee remain anonymous until the award of the prize at the Congress. If a former student (Ph.D. thesis only) of a Committee member is seriously considered, such a member shall not continue to serve on the Committee for its final decision.
At the 1924 International Congress of Mathematicians in Toronto, a resolution was adopted that at each ICM, two gold medals should be awarded to recognize outstanding mathematical achievement. Professor J. C. Fields, a Canadian mathematician who was Secretary of the 1924 Congress, later donated funds establishing the medals, which were named in his honor. In 1966 it was agreed that, in light of the great expansion of mathematical research, up to four medals could be awarded at each Congress.
The Fields Institute, Toronto, Canada, organizes the Fields Medal Symposium. The goals of the program for the Fields Medal Symposium are to present the work of a Fields Medalist and its impact, to explore the potential for future directions and areas of its influence, to provide inspiration to the next generations of mathematicians and scientists, as well as to present the Medalist to a broader public.
The following text by Eberhard Knobloch describes the design of the medal.
The head represents Archimedes facing right.
(1) In the field is the word in Greek capitals and
(2) the artist's monogram and date RTM, MCNXXXIII.
(3) The inscription reads: TRANSIRE SUUM PECTUS MUNDOQUE POTIRI.
The inscriptions mean:
(1) "of Archimedes", namely the face of Archimedes.
(2) R(obert) T(ait) M(cKenzie), that is the name of the Canadian sculptor who designed the medal. The correct date would read: "MCMXXXIII" or 1933. The second letter M has to be substituted for the false N.
(3) "To transcend one's spirit and to take hold of (to master) the world".
The inscription on the tablet reads:
EX TOTO ORBE
OB SCRIPTA INSIGNIA
It means: "The mathematicians having congregated from the whole world awarded (this medal) because of outstanding writings". The verb form "tribuere" (the first "e" is a long vowel) is a short form of "tribuerunt". In the background there is a representation of Archimedes' sphere being inscribed in a cylinder.
Eberhard Knobloch, August 5, 1998
To obtain further details on the Fields Medal or on J. C. Fields, please refer to: