A letter by a child who hates Maths reads thus: “Dear Maths, please grow up soon and try to solve your own problems. Don't depend on others.”

Mathematics is mostly awed, leaves many perplexed or simply becomes the butt of such jokes. So much for a country that has contributed significantly to the subject.

Today, the subject is in dire straits. “A job announcement for other life sciences receives anywhere from 20 to 100 applicants. A few announcements for mathematics hardly receive any applications. Mathematics, in India, is going through a crisis. Even the IITs do not have enough academicians qualified in mathematics,” rues professor Rajat Tandon, secretary of the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), to be held in Hyderabad from August 19 to 27. The ICM is being hosted for the first time in India ever since it began in 1897 in Zurich. “The ICM, organised by the International Mathematical Union (IMU), will see the participation of 3000 delegates from 90 countries,” informs Rajat Tandon. Mathematicians hope the event puts the spot light on the subject and makes young mathematicians work in India than in universities abroad.

As you read this, nearly 220 women mathematicians will meet today to kick start the International Congress of Women Mathematicians (ICWM) as a pre-cursor to the nine-day International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) 2010, which will be held at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre. The ICM has a number of women participants and the idea of conducting a pre-congress for women came from the European Women Mathematicians forum. An insight into the history of the IMU and the ICM answers why the event has evaded India this long. “From 1897 to the Second World War, the members of the IMU were predominantly Europeans and Americans. India joined the IMU only in the 1950s,” says Rajat Tandon.

What turned the tables in favour of Hyderabad, he says, was the presence of a convention centre that can accommodate 3000 delegates, 1600 of which are foreign delegates.

Highlights

For the first time in the history of the ICM, two sessions will be open to public, at the Global Peace Auditorium, Shanti Sarovar Campus, Gachibowli. On August 23, students from 60 schools will be listening to lecture by Bill Barton from University of Auckland and Gunter Ziegler from the Berlin Maths School.

On August 24, Viswanathan Anand will play a game of chess with 40 mathematicians. Though the event is not open to public, it will underline the origin of chess in India.

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