President Pratibha Patil will inaugurate the International Congress of Mathematicians, scheduled to be held in Hyderabad from August 19 to 27.

The congress is by far the biggest and most prestigious international meeting of mathematicians. It has been held once in every four years without a break, except for the war years, for over 100 years now. The first congress was held in Zurich in 1897.

The congress this year assumes importance for India and Asia, as it is being held for the first time in the country and for the third time in the continent – after the one held in Japan in 1990 and China in 2002. About 3,000 top mathematicians from across the world are expected to participate.

Fields awards

The President will present the Fields awards, the most coveted global award for achievements in mathematics. They are traditionally announced and given away at the meetings of the congress. There can be up to four awardees for the Medal. Named after J.M. Fields, a Canadian mathematician, it is awarded only to mathematicians under the age of 40.

Ms. Patil would also present three other prestigious awards: the Nevanlinna Prize, named after famous Finnish mathematician, Rolf Herman Nevanlinna, for work on mathematical aspects of computer science; the Gauss prize, named after German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss for mathematical work that had practical application of great import and the Chern prize named after Chinese mathematician Shiing Shen Chern, for outstanding life-long contributions to mathematics. The Chern prize will be presented for the first time at the congress.

Among other highlights of this year's congress is the presentation of a one-time international prize of Rs. 10 lakh for popularising mathematics after ‘Leelavathi,' the immortal mathematical treatise by the Indian mathematician, Bhaskaracharya, at the concluding ceremony of the congress.

In addition, there would be a chess match, where world champion Viswanathan Anand would play simultaneous chess against 40 opponents to be chosen from among the delegates to the congress.

A play produced by the British theatre company, ‘Complicite,' which has for its backdrop the collaboration between the Indian mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujam and Cambridge's iconic mathematician, Godfrey Harold Hardy would also be staged during the week-long congress.