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John Charles Fields received his B.A. in mathematics from the University of Toronto in 1884. After a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University, Fields was appointed Professor of Mathematics at Allegheny College in 1889. However from 1892 Fields studied in Europe with Fuchs, Frobenius, Hensel, Schwarz and Planck. This period was clearly important for his future development as a research mathematician.
In 1902 Fields was appointed to the position of lecturer at the University of Toronto where he remained until his death. In 1923 he was promoted to research professor at the University of Toronto. His main research topic was on algebraic functions.
Fields received several important honours. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1907 and, in 1913, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London. In 1924 the International Congress of Mathematicians was held at Toronto and Fields was honoured by being President of the Congress.
However Fields is best remembered for conceiving the idea of, and for providing funds for, an international medal for mathematical distinction. Adopted at the International Congress of Mathematicians at Zurich in 1932, the first medals were awarded at the Oslo Congress of 1936.
Field's Medals are awarded to no fewer than two and no more than four mathematicians under 40 years of age every four years at the International Congress of Mathematicians. These conditions were set down to recognise Fields' wish, set out in his Will, that the awards recognise both work completed and point to the potential for future achievement.
The first Field's Medals were awarded to Lars Ahlfors and Jesse Douglas in 1936. No awards were made during World War II, then beginning in 1950 the Medals have been awarded every four years.
References (2 books/articles)
References elsewhere in this archive:
John C Fields was elected to the Royal Society of London in 1913. You can see a history of the Royal Society and a list of the members among the mathematicians in our archive.
Other Web sites:
More details of the Fields medals (including a list of recipients) are available at
It has been alleged that the fact that there is no Nobel prize in mathematics may have something to do with Mittag-Leffler. However, see the Web site at Waterloo, Canada for further information.
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