Time to ponder why no Indian resident has ever won an Abel Prize or Fields Medal: Narayana Murthy

Published - December 17, 2023 12:51 am IST - CHENNAI

Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy at the inaugural of the Alladi Ramakrishnan Centenary Conference.

Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy at the inaugural of the Alladi Ramakrishnan Centenary Conference. | Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj

Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy on Saturday said it was time to ponder why no Indian resident has ever won an Abel Prize for mathematics (named after the Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel) or the Fields Medal (instituted in 1932 at the request of Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields), often described as the Nobel Prize in mathematics.

“Can we produce winners whose lifetime work is done right here in India? Can we produce another Ramanujan, who had the foresight to propose what came to be called Ramanujan’s master theorem?” he asked mathematicians at the inaugural of the three-day Alladi Ramakrishnan Centenary conference at The Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc).

Eminent physicist Alladi Ramakrishnan founded Matscience (IMSc) in Chennai on January 3, 1962. “The best way to show our respect to him is for our youngsters to emulate him and perform better than him by winning the Fields medal and the Abel Prize,” Mr. Murthy said, adding: “We must ask uncomfortable, unpleasant and painful questions if we want to find a solution to the problem of why no Indian resident has ever won the Abel Prize or the Fields Medal.”

“Is it because our children are not encouraged to do independent, analytical and critical thinking? Is it because merited and promising mathematicians leave India for the developing world where they find a more hospitable and a competitive environment? Is it because the institutions of higher learning do not engender an environment of high aspiration, global competition and meritocracy?,” he asked, urging mathematicians to get together and find solutions to remove bottlenecks.

He said the National Education Policy gave hope that issues could be resolved, and India could find its rightful place in mathematics.

Prof. Krishnaswami Alladi of the University of Florida recalled how his father Alladi Ramakrishnan was inspired by seminars on modern physics during his visit to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1957-58 at the invitation of its then director Robert Oppenheimer, and on his return to Madras, started a theoretical physics seminar. He later went on to establish IMSc with just three rooms at the Presidency College in Madras, he said.

He further said the Alladi family would make two donations to the Institute — one for hosting a lecture series annually by an internationally reputed scholar or a major outreach programme named after Alladi Ramakrishnan; and the second to support Ph.D students annually to attend international conferences, Mr. Krishnaswami said.

Mr. Murthy also unveiled a bust of Prof. Ramakrishnan.

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