In search of greatness

The Fields Medal, popularly seen as the equivalent of a Nobel Prize, is awarded once in four years to two-four mathematicians below the age of 40. In its long history, no woman had won this medal until 2014 when an Iranian, Maryam Mirzakhani, won it for the first time. No Indian has yet won it although it was also in 2014 that for the first time an Indian-origin Canadian-American mathematician, Manjul Bhargava, was awarded. In the recently announced prize for 2018, an Australian mathematician, Akshay Venkatesh, was awarded. He too happens to be of Indian origin. Unpleasant questions Some Indians might take pride in the ancestry of these latter two winners, but has the country contributed anything to their growth as mathematicians? Would Prof. Bhargava and Prof. Venkatesh have produced the work that won these prizes if they had studied and worked in India? This is not a pleasant question to ask, but parents are increasingly confronting similar questions when it comes to their children’s education. This problem is not unique to mathematics. It is the same case with respect to the Nobel Prizes in science. Indian-origin scientists have won the Nobel in physics, chemistry and medicine, but post-Independence, work done in India has not led to a science Nobel. What really is the problem? If Indians studying and working abroad can have a great impact, then obviously the problem has to do with our systems of education and research. While it is true that being abroad brings greater visibility to one’s work, it is also the case that for a country which claims to have the third largest scientific manpower in the world, our creative contribution to science has been way below par.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/in-search-of-greatness/article24755982.ece

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