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Fields Medallists 2014 awardees with brief citations

Artur Avila

is awarded a Fields Medal for his profound contributions to dynamical systems theory, which have changed the face of the field, using the powerful idea of renormalization as a unifying principle.

Description in a few paragraphs:
Avila leads and shapes the field of dynamical systems. With his collaborators, he has made essential progress in many areas, including real and complex one-dimensional dynamics, spectral theory of the one-frequency Schrödinger operator, flat billiards and partially hyperbolic dynamics.

Avila’s work on real one-dimensional dynamics brought completion to the subject, with full understanding of the probabilistic point of view, accompanied by a complete renormalization theory. His work in complex dynamics led to a thorough understanding of the fractal geometry of Feigenbaum Julia sets.

In the spectral theory of one-frequency difference Schrödinger operators, Avila came up with a global description of the phase transitions between discrete and absolutely continuous spectra, establishing surprising stratified analyticity of the Lyapunov exponent.

In the theory of flat billiards, Avila proved several long-standing conjectures on the ergodic behavior of interval-exchange maps. He made deep advances in our understanding of the stable ergodicity of typical partially hyperbolic systems.

Avila’s collaborative approach is an inspiration for a new generation of mathematicians.

Manjul Bhargava

Description in a few paragraphs:
Bhargava’s thesis provided a reformulation of Gauss’s law for the composition of two binary quadratic forms. He showed that the orbits of the group SL(2, Z)3 on the tensor product of three copies of the standard integral representation correspond to quadratic rings (rings of rank 2 over Z) together with three ideal classes whose product is trivial. This recovers Gauss’s composition law in an original and computationally effective manner. He then studied orbits in more complicated integral representations, which correspond to cubic, quartic, and quintic rings, and counted the number of such rings with bounded discriminant.

Bhargava next turned to the study of representations with a polynomial ring of invariants. The simplest such representation is given by the action of PGL(2, Z) on the space of binary quartic forms. This has two independent invariants, which are related to the moduli of elliptic curves. Together with his student Arul Shankar, Bhargava used delicate estimates on the number of integral orbits of bounded height to bound the average rank of elliptic curves. Generalizing these methods to curves of higher genus, he recently showed that most hyperelliptic curves of genus at least two have no rational points.

Bhargava’s work is based both on a deep understanding of the representations of arithmetic groups and a unique blend of algebraic and analytic expertise.

Martin Hairer

is awarded a Fields Medal for his outstanding contributions to the theory of stochastic partial differential equations, and in particular for the creation of a theory of regularity structures for such equations.

Description in a few paragraphs:
A mathematical problem that is important throughout science is to understand the influence of noise on differential equations, and on the long time behavior of the solutions. This problem was solved for ordinary differential equations by Itô in the 1940s. For partial differential equations, a comprehensive theory has proved to be more elusive, and only particular cases (linear equations, tame nonlinearities, etc.) had been treated satisfactorily.

Hairer’s work addresses two central aspects of the theory. Together with Mattingly he employed the Malliavin calculus along with new methods to establish the ergodicity of the two-dimensional stochastic Navier-Stokes equation.

Building on the rough-path approach of Lyons for stochastic ordinary differential equations, Hairer then created an abstract theory of regularity structures for stochastic partial differential equations (SPDEs). This allows Taylor-like expansions around any point in space and time. The new theory allowed him to construct systematically solutions to singular non-linear SPDEs as fixed points of a renormalization procedure.

Hairer was thus able to give, for the first time, a rigorous intrinsic meaning to many SPDEs arising in physics.

Maryam Mirzakhani

is awarded the Fields Medal for her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.

Description in a few paragraphs:
Maryam Mirzakhani has made stunning advances in the theory of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces, and led the way to new frontiers in this area. Her insights have integrated methods from diverse fields, such as algebraic geometry, topology and probability theory.

In hyperbolic geometry, Mirzakhani established asymptotic formulas and statistics for the number of simple closed geodesics on a Riemann surface of genus g. She next used these results to give a new and completely unexpected proof of Witten’s conjecture, a formula for characteristic classes for the moduli spaces of Riemann surfaces with marked points.

In dynamics, she found a remarkable new construction that bridges the holomorphic and symplectic aspects of moduli space, and used it to show that Thurston’s earthquake flow is ergodic and mixing.

Most recently, in the complex realm, Mirzakhani and her coworkers produced the long sought-after proof of the conjecture that – while the closure of a real geodesic in moduli space can be a fractal cobweb, defying classification – the closure of a complex geodesic is always an algebraic subvariety.

Her work has revealed that the rigidity theory of homogeneous spaces (developed by Margulis, Ratner and others) has a definite resonance in the highly inhomogeneous, but equally fundamental realm of moduli spaces, where many developments are still unfolding.