Balliol alumnus is awarded Fields Medal

Thursday 07 July 2022
James Maynard
Professor James Maynard (photo: Evan Nedyalkov)

Many congratulations to Professor James Maynard (Balliol 2009) on being awarded a 2022 Fields Medal. The Fields Medal recognises ‘outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement’ and is said to be ‘the Nobel Prize of mathematics’.

Professor Maynard received a 2022 Fields Medal for his ‘spectacular contributions’ to analytic number theory, ‘which have led to major advances in the understanding of the structure of prime numbers and in Diophantine approximation’. He is one of four winners of a Fields Medal, which is awarded every four years by the International Mathematical Union to recipients under the age of forty. 

It means a huge amount to win such a prestigious prize and to have this sort of recognition from my colleagues around the world. It feels a bit surreal imagining my name alongside giants of mathematics that I read about as a child,’ he said.

Professor Maynard was a graduate student at Balliol, where he says he developed his passion for mathematical research: ‘The system at Oxford has always given me a lot of time and freedom to explore my research interests, and this freedom is vital if you want to make important conceptual advances … My supervisor, Professor Roger Heath-Brown, was very supportive and helped me develop hugely when I was starting out.’ 

Now he is one of the leading figures in the field of number theory, having become a Professor of Number Theory at St John’s College, Oxford, in 2017. ‘Lots of the questions in number theory have a particular beauty to me. There are many simple to state problems in number theory which seem completely fundamental yet their answers require a huge amount of sophisticated ideas from all over mathematics. It is this combination of simplicity, importance and depth which really appeals’, he said in an interview.

In its citation, the International Mathematical Union described Maynard’s approach as ‘highly ingenious, often leading to surprising breakthroughs on important problems that seemed to be inaccessible by current techniques.’ You can read the full citation and interview with him here.