A UK-based Iranian Kurd from is among the four winners of the prestigious Fields Medal, often thought of as the Nobel prize for mathematics.
Caucher Birkar (pictured), a Cambridge University professor, was awarded the prize on Wednesday during a ceremony at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Caucher Birkar’s dedication to the winding and multidimensional world of algebraic geometry, with its ellipses, lemniscates, Cassini ovals, among so many other forms defined by equations, granted him the Philip Leverhulme prize in 2010 for exceptional scholars whose greatest achievement is yet to come.
Given the substantial contributions of Birkar to the field, that prize was a prophecy: after eight years, the Cambridge University researcher joins the select group of Fields Medal winners at the age of 40.
Birkar, who just this year received recognition for his work as one of the London Mathematical Society Prize winners, was born in 1978 in Marivan, a Kurdish province in Iran bordering Iraq with about 200,000 inhabitants.
His curiosity was awakened by algebraic geometry, the same interest that, in that same region, centuries earlier, had attracted the attention of Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) and Sharaf al-Din al-Tusi (1135-1213).
After graduating in Mathematics from Tehran University, Birkar went to live in the United Kingdom, where he became a British citizen. In 2004, he completed his PhD at the University of Nottingham with the thesis “Topics in modern algebraic geometry”.
Throughout his trajectory, birational geometry has stood out as his main area of interest. He has devoted himself to the fundamental aspects of key problems in modern mathematics – such as minimal models, Fano varieties, and singularities. His theories have solved long-standing conjectures.
In 2010, the year in which he was awarded by the Foundation Sciences Mathématiques de Paris, Birkar wrote, alongside Paolo Cascini (Imperial College London), Christopher Hacon (University of Utah) and James McKernan (University of California, San Diego), an article called “Existence of minimal models for varieties of general log type” that revolutionized the field. The article earned the quartet the AMS Moore Prize in 2016.