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John Charles Fields

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John Charles Fields

John Charles Fields is perhaps one of the most famous Canadian Mathematicians of all time. He was born on May 14, 1863 in Hamilton Ontario, and died August 9, 1932 in Toronto, Ontario (Young, 1998). He graduated from the University of Toronto at the age of 21 with a B.A in Mathematics and went on to get his Ph.D. at John Hopkins University in 1887. Fields was very interested to study at John Hopkins University because apparently it was the only university in North America which really stressed research at the time (Fields Institute, n.d.). Fields did original research in the theory of algebraic functions that was influenced by his renowned

mentors, Fuchs, Schwarz, Frobenius and Plank (Fields Medal, n.d.). After two years of teaching at John Hopkins University, John Charles Fields then went on to teach at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh (Fields Institute, n.d). He taught at Allegheny College for 4 years, and then decided that North America was not where he wanted to research, dissatisfied with the state of mathematics in North America, he left for Europe and spent the next 10 years of his life there (Fields Institute, n.d). He studied in Paris and Berlin with some of the best mathematicians of his time. His time there influenced him deeply and reinforced his convictions about the importance of mathematical research. Fields returned to Canada in 1902 as a special lecturer at the University of Toronto and remained at the University of Toronto for the rest of his life, and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1909 and of the Royal Society of London in 1913 (Fields Institute, n.d). I think it is great to know that one of the greatest mathematicians of all time is Canadian, because most famous mathematicians are of European decent.

I think Fields lived a very interesting and dynamic life; he had a chance to pursue his dream of research in mathematics and got to become lifelong friends with the famous mathematician Gosta Mittag-Leffler. As opposed to Alfred Nobel, Fields understood the importance of research in mathematics and he did his best to support it and promote it. I think that is the reason why John Charles Fields was able to take mathematics to a new level, because he was so dedicated and passionate about his work.

Mathematics is used in many widely different contexts and it is used everyday, although most people don't recognize that and I believe that the creation of the Fields medal was big step in the mathematical universe. In January 1932, Fields indicated that the idea of the medal had the support of the major mathematical societies of France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the United States, and he also outlined the principles behind the proposed medal (Fields Institute, n.d). The first Fields medal was awarded in Oslo in 1936. I think the implementation of the Fields medal was a great idea because it served as a reward for outstanding mathematicians and it made mathematics more recognized around the world.

Other than the Fields medal, I feel the creation of the Fields Institute in Toronto was another major step in Canadian mathematics. The Fields Institute



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