Thursday, July 29, 2010
By Vinod Varshney
First Time in August this year top women mathematicians from all over the world would assemble in Hyderabad. The occasion is a two day International Conference of Women Mathematicians just before the most prestigious International Congress of Mathematicians.
Only recently women have started asserting their place in the field of mathematics which has been reflecting in girls achieving notable success in the International Math Olympiad. During last twenty five years many girls have almost reached up to the top, remained behind just by a whisker.
Hyderabad women conference would not only raise the self esteem of women mathematicians, but also bring forth some issues which keep women laggards in this field. It is said no women could get Fields Medal, considered as good as Nobel Prize, because it is given to mathematicians who are under forty years.
Since women also have to have children and look after them before 40, this award becomes non-existent for them.
Need to Encourage Girls in Maths
A great need is being felt that girls be encouraged to opt mathematics as a career and research option. If this happens then within a decade perhaps some woman may be able to win Fields medal. Recently the Abel prize has been introduced which is also considered as important as Nobel Prize. Only nine mathematicians have won this so far, but no woman.
No Indian man also has won any of these two most prestigious awards given for great research in mathematics. This raises a question if ever the situation would change in India. Everybody knows that quality research does not take place in India. Indian Universities even do not care to update their curriculum for decades. Bright students remain far behind because of this callousness of Indian academicians. So much so teachers in Delhi University are unashamedly fighting against even introduction of semester system.
We Had Ramanujan Once
Average Indians feel proud only in telling that we had once Ramanujan whose problems no mathematician in the world has been able to solve so far rather than solve them themselves if this is a great mathematical issue.
It is great that International Conference of Women Mathematicians is taking place in India. It is the European Women in Mathematics that had taken initiative in this matter. Prof (Ms) Shobha Madan of IIT-Kanpur is championing the cause in India.
In India we had last year seen a national conference of women mathematicians at the Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi. But it had mixed attendance, almost equal number of men mathematicians. The Hyderabad conference is expected to be truly a women show on a grand scale.
The job of activating women mathematicians around the globe started much earlier by forming the Association for Women in Mathematics in 1971. An American Indian Bhama Srinivasan also had been its President during 1981-83. Bhama Srinivasan, born and grew up in Chennai, got the spark from her grandfather who was an amateur practitioner of mathematics.
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