Akshay Venkatesh

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Akshay Venkatesh
Born (1981-11-21) 21 November 1981 (age 36)
New Delhi, India
Nationality Australian
Alma mater Princeton University
University of Western Australia
Awards Salem Prize (2007)
SASTRA Ramanujan Prize (2008)
Infosys Prize (2016)
Ostrowski Prize (2017)
Fields Medal (2018)
Scientific career
Fields Mathematics
Institutions Institute for Advanced Study (2005–2006, 2018–present)
Stanford University (2008–2018)
Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences (2006–2008)
Doctoral advisor Peter Sarnak

Akshay Venkatesh (born 21 November 1981) is an Australian mathematician and professor at Stanford University. Starting 15 August 2018, he will be a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study.[1] His research interests are in the fields of counting, equidistribution problems in automorphic forms and number theory, in particular representation theory, locally symmetric spaces and ergodic theory.[2]

He is the only Australian to have won medals at both the International Physics Olympiad and International Mathematical Olympiad, which he did at the age of 12.[3][4]

In 2018, he was awarded the Fields Medal for his synthesis of analytic number theory, homogeneous dynamics, topology, and representation theory.[5][6] He is the second Australian[7] and the second person of Indian descent to win the Fields Medal.[1]

Early years[edit]

Venkatesh was born in Delhi, India, to a middle-class Hindu Tamil Brahmin family, who moved to Perth in Western Australia when he was age 2.[1] He attended Scotch College. His mother, Svetha, is a computer science professor at Deakin University. Venkatesh attended extracurricular training classes for gifted students in the state mathematical olympiad program,[8] and in 1993, whilst aged only 11, he competed at the 24th International Physics Olympiad in Williamsburg, Virginia, winning a bronze medal.[9] The following year, he switched his attention to mathematics and, after placing second in the Australian Mathematical Olympiad,[10] he won a silver medal in the 6th Asian Pacific Mathematics Olympiad,[11] before winning a bronze medal at the 1994 International Mathematical Olympiad held in Hong Kong.[3] He completed his secondary education the same year, turning 13 before entering the University of Western Australia as its youngest ever student. Venkatesh completed the four year course in three years and became, at 16, the youngest person to earn of First Class Honours in pure mathematics from the University.[3] He was awarded the J. A. Woods Memorial Prize as the most outstanding graduand of the year from the Faculties of Science, Engineering, Dentistry, or Medical Science.[12][13]

Research career[edit]

Venkatesh commenced his PhD at Princeton University in 1998 under Peter Sarnak, which he completed in 2002,[2] producing the thesis Limiting forms of the trace formula. He was supported by the Hackett Fellowship for postgraduate study. He was then awarded a postdoctoral position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he served as a C.L.E. Moore instructor. Venkatesh then held a Clay Research Fellowship from the Clay Mathematics Institute from 2004 to 2006,[2] and was an associate professor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University.[14][15] He was a member of the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) from 2005 to 2006. He became a full professor at Stanford University on 1 September 2008. After serving as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the IAS in 2017-2018,[14] he returns to the IAS as a permanent faculty member in mid-August 2018.[16]


Venkatesh was awarded the Salem Prize, given to a "young mathematician judged to have done outstanding work in Salem's field of interest—the theory of Fourier series"[17] and the Packard Fellowship in 2007. In 2008, he received the US$10,000 SASTRA Ramanujan Prize, given for "outstanding contributions to areas of mathematics influenced by the great Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan" and "only awarded to those under the age of thirty-two (the age of Ramanujan at his time of death)."[3][18] The prize was presented at the International Conference on Number Theory and Modular Forms, held at SASTRA University in Kumbakonam, Ramanujan's hometown.[18] In 2010, he was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians (Hyderabad) and spoke on the topic "Number Theory and Lie Theory and Generalisations."[19] For his exceptionally wide-ranging, foundational and creative contributions to modern number theory, Venkatesh was awarded the Infosys Prize in Mathematical Sciences[20] in 2016. In 2017 he received the Ostrowski Prize,[21] which is awarded every two years for "outstanding achievements in pure mathematics and in the foundations of numerical mathematics."[22]

In 2018, he was awarded the Fields Medal,[5][23] commonly described as the Nobel Prize of mathematics,[24] becoming the second Australian (after Terence Tao)[7] and the second person of Indian descent (after Manjul Bhargava)[1] to be so honoured. The short citation for the medal declared that Venkatesh was being honoured for "his synthesis of analytic number theory, homogeneous dynamics, topology, and representation theory, which has resolved long-standing problems in areas such as the equidistribution of arithmetic objects."[6] University of Western Australia Professor Michael Giudici said of his former classmate's work that "[i]f it was easy for me to explain, then he wouldn't have received the Fields Medal".[24] Australian mathematician and media personality Adam Spencer said that "[t]his century will be built by mathematicians, whether it's computer coding, algorithms, machine learning, artificial intelligence, app design and the like" and that "we should acknowledge the magnificence of the mathematical mind."[23] Director of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute Professor Geoff Prince said "Akshay is an exciting and innovative leader in his field whose work will continue to have wide-ranging implications for mathematics" and a worthy recipient of the Fields medal "given his contribution to improving mathematicians' understanding of analytic number theory, algebraic number theory, and representation theory".[25]

The long citation for his Fields Medal describes Venkatesh as having "made profound contributions to an exceptionally broad range of subjects in mathematics" and recognises that he "solved many longstanding problems by combining methods from seemingly unrelated areas, presented novel viewpoints on classical problems, and produced strikingly far-reaching conjectures."[6][26] Venkatesh's "use of dynamics theory, which studies the equations of moving objects to solve problems in number theory, which is the study of whole numbers, integers and prime numbers" was recognised in the award.[7] "His work uses representation theory, which represents abstract algebra in terms of more easily-understood linear algebra, and topology theory, which studies the properties of structures that are deformed through stretching or twisting, like a Möbius strip."[7] He described his work in 2016 as "looking for new patterns in the arithmetic of numbers".[7] On receiving the award, which is presented every four years, Venkatesh said "A lot of the time when you do math, you're stuck, but at the same time there are all these moments where you feel privileged that you get to work with it. You have this sensation of transcendence, you feel like you've been part of something really meaningful."[7]

Contributions to mathematics[edit]

Venkatesh has made contributions to a wide variety of areas in mathematics, including number theory, automorphic forms, representation theory, locally symmetric spaces and ergodic theory, by himself, and in collaboration with several mathematicians.[6]

Using ergodic methods, Venkatesh, jointly with Jordan Ellenberg, made significant progress on the Hasse principle for integral representations of quadratic forms by quadratic forms.[6][27]

In a series of joint works with Manfred Einsiedler, Elon Lindenstrauss and Philippe Michel, Venkatesh revisited the Linnik ergodic method and solved a longstanding conjecture of Yuri Linnik on the distribution of torus orbits attached to cubic number fields.[6][28]

Venkatesh also provided a novel and more direct way of establishing sub-convexity estimates for L-functions in numerous cases, going beyond the foundational work of Hardy–Littlewood–Weyl, Burgess, and Duke–Friedlander–Iwaniec that dealt with important special cases.[6][29][30] This approach eventually resulted in the complete resolution by Venkatesh and Philippe Michel of the sub-convexity problem for GL(1) and GL(2) L-functions over general number fields.[30]


  1. ^ a b c d "Indian-origin mathematician Akshay Venkatesh maths 'Nobel' Fields Medal". India TV News. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c "Akshay Venkatesh". claymath.org. Clay Mathematics Institute. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Former IMO Olympians". amt.edu.au. Australian Mathematics Trust. 2017. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  4. ^ MacDonald, Janine (15 July 2011). "Maths boy wonder shows how to stack oranges" (Press release). University of Western Australia. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  5. ^ a b "Fields Medals 2018". mathunion.org. International Mathematical Union. 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Venkatesh Short and Long Citation" (PDF). mathunion.org. International Mathematical Union. 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Zhou, Naaman (2 August 2018). "Australian Akshay Venkatesh wins Fields medal – the 'Nobel for maths'". Guardian Australia. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  8. ^ Schultz, Phill (24 January 2005). "My Automathography – 30 Years at UWA". University of Western Australia. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  9. ^ "XXIV International Physics Olympiad Williamsburg". 1993. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  10. ^ "Highest AMO scorers, 1994". Australian Mathematics Trust. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "Results of 6th Asian Pacific Mathematics Olympiad 1994". Australian Mathematics Trust. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  12. ^ "Conditions – J. A. Wood Memorial Prizes [F1495-03]". University of Western Australia. 3 November 2015. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  13. ^ Stacey, David (2 August 2018). "UWA maths prodigy wins international award" (Press release). University of Western Australia. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  14. ^ a b "Akshay Venkatesh". Institute for Advanced Study. 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  15. ^ "Akshay Venkatesh – Research Interests". math.stanford.edu. Stanford University. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  16. ^ "Mathematician Akshay Venkatesh Appointed to the Faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study" (Press release). Institute for Advanced Study. 2018. Retrieved 6 August 2018. 
  17. ^ "NYU's Venkatesh, 25, Wins Prize Given to Young Mathematicians for Work in Field of Analysis" (Press release). New York University. 22 August 2007. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  18. ^ a b "Venkatesh Awarded 2008 SASTRA Ramanujan Prize" (PDF). Notices of the AMS. 56 (1): 56. January 2009. 
  19. ^ "ICM Plenary and Invited Speakers since 1897". mathunion.org. International Mathematical Union. 11 June 2016. Archived from the original on 11 June 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2016. 
  20. ^ "Infosys Prize – Laureates 2016 – Prof. Akshay Venkatesh". www.infosys-science-foundation.com. Retrieved 2017-04-03. 
  21. ^ "Citation for Akshay Venkatesh" (PDF). ostrowski.ch. Ostrowski Foundation. 2017. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  22. ^ "Foundation A. M. Ostrowski for an international prize in higher mathematics". Ostrowski.ch. Ostrowski Foundation. 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  23. ^ a b Keane, Daniel (2 August 2018). "Maths hands out its 'Nobel Prize' to an Australian – here's why you should care". ABC News. Retrieved 2 August 2018. 
  24. ^ a b Slezak, Michael (2 August 2018). "Fields Medal: Aussie genius Akshay Venkatesh wins 'Nobel Prize of mathematics'". ABC News. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  25. ^ "Aussie Akshay Venkatesh wins 'the Nobel Prize of mathematics'". SBS News. AAP. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  26. ^ "Australian mathematician wins Fields Medal". science.org.au (Press release). Australian Academy of Science. 3 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  27. ^ Ellenberg, Jordan S.; Venkatesh, Akshay (2008). "Local-global principles for representations of quadratic forms". Inventiones mathematicae. 171 (2): 257–279. arXiv:math/0604232Freely accessible. Bibcode:2007InMat.171..257E. doi:10.1007/s00222-007-0077-7. 
  28. ^ Einsiedler, Manfred; Lindenstrauss, Elon; Michel, Philippe; Venkatesh, Akshay (2011). "Distribution of periodic torus orbits and Duke's theorem for cubic fields". Annals of Mathematics. 173 (2): 815–885. arXiv:0708.1113Freely accessible. doi:10.4007/annals.2011.173.2.5. 
  29. ^ Venkatesh, Akshay (2010). "Sparse equidistribution problems, period bounds and subconvexity". Annals of Mathematics. 172 (2): 989–1094. doi:10.4007/annals.2010.172.989. 
  30. ^ a b Michel, Philippe; Venkatesh, Akshay (2010). "The subconvexity problem for GL2". Publications Mathématiques de l'IHÉS. 111 (1): 171–271. arXiv:0903.3591Freely accessible. doi:10.1007/s10240-010-0025-8. 

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