Mathematicians, International Congresses of

Mathematicians, International Congresses of


International congresses of mathematicians are convened once every four years. The first one was held in Zurich in 1898. Since World War II, congresses have been held in Cambridge, Mass. (1950), Amsterdam (1954), Edinburgh (1958), Stockholm (1962), Moscow (1966), and Nice (1970). The number of delegates sometimes reaches 3,000-4,000 persons; about 3,000 attended the congress in Stockholm, more than 4,000 the Moscow congress, and about 3,000 the Nice congress.

Lectures of general interest on advances achieved in mathematics since the preceding congress and on new applications of mathematics as well as lectures on the most spectacular results obtained over the same period, are heard and discussed at the congresses of mathematicians. The program of the congresses comprises general sessions for all members and section meetings. The list of sections is established before an up-coming congress and varies from congress to congress. Thus, there were 15 sections at the congress in Moscow, and 33 sections in Nice.

Sections dealing with mathematical problems in physics and mechanics, the teaching of mathematics, and the history of mathematics are usually organized along with those dealing with purely mathematical topics, such as the foundations of mathematics and mathematical logic, number theory, algebra, geometry, topology, analysis, ordinary differential equations, partial differential equations, probability theory, and mathematical statistics. Sections dealing with applied branches of mathematics, such as numerical analysis and optimization theory, have been organized at recent congresses of mathematicians.

The scientific program of the congresses comprises one-hour addresses of general interest that are read at the general sessions, half-hour (sometimes to 50 minutes) reports on particular sections, and 10- to 15-minute short communications (information reports) given by section. Traditionally, 16 one-hour addresses and 60-90 section reports are presented. The exception was the congress at Nice, whose program included 230 section reports owing to the large number of sections.

The one-hour and the half-hour addresses are by invitation, that is, the speakers are personally invited by the organizing committee of the congress to deliver addresses on chosen topics. Short communications have been included in the programs of all the congresses of mathematicians except the one in Nice. The inclusion of short communications in the program is by request of the members, although the organizing committee of the congress usually makes some selection.

The actual organization of an individual congress is the responsibility of the country in which it is to be held. For this purpose, a national organizing committee is created to handle the preparations of the congress. Since the creation of the International Mathematical Union in 1952, the chief role of preparing the scientific programs of the congresses of mathematicians has been assigned to the organs of the union—the executive committee and the committee’s international consultative committee. The consultative committee makes up the list of sections and sets up panels of experts for each section. The panels submit recommendations on who is to be invited to speak in each section and also at the general session. The final decision on these questions rests with the consultative committee and the executive committee of the International Mathematical Union.

Since 1950, gold medals and the Fields prizes in the amount of US$1,500 have been awarded by the International Mathematical Union to young mathematicians in recognition of important scientific achievements at the first general session of the congress. The place and dates of the next congress are announced at the closing session of the congress.

Soviet mathematicians have been participating in the congresses of mathematicians since 1928 (Bologne). The number of one-hour addresses requested from Soviet scientists attests to the large role played by Soviet mathematicians in world mathematics. Soviet reports constituted 25 percent of all reports at the congresses of 1966 and 1970.


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