Fields medal: World's most prestigious maths prize stolen from UK refugee minutes after winning it

Cambridge professor Caucher Birkar one of four winners of 'Nobel Prize of Mathematics'

Tom Embury-Dennis
Thursday 02 August 2018 12:32
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Kurdish refugee Caucher Birkar wins Fields Medal

A medal considered the world's most prestigious maths prize has been stolen from a Cambridge professor just minutes after he was awarded it in Rio de Janeiro.

Caucher Birkar, a Kurdish refugee from Iran, was one of four winners of the Fields Medal, often dubbed the "Nobel Prize of Mathematics", at the International Congress of Mathematics on Wednesday.

The professor put the 14-carat gold medal, worth around £3,000, in a briefcase on a table, but moments later realised it had disappeared, event organisers said.

The briefcase, which also contained his wallet and phone, was later found by security officials in a nearby pavilion, though the medal and wallet had been removed. Police reviewed security tapes and identified two potential suspects.

"The International Congress of Mathematicians is profoundly sorry about the disappearance of the briefcase belonging to mathematician Caucher Birkar, which contained his Fields Medal from the ceremony this morning," organisers said in a note.

“Images recorded at the event are being analysed. The organising committee is cooperating with local police authorities in their investigation.”

It was the first time that the awards, held every four years, were hosted in the southern hemisphere.

Mr Birkar was born on a farm in Iran, near the border with Iraq, and was raised during the eight-year war between the two countries in the 1980s.

While studying at the University of Tehran, he travelled to the UK and successfully sought political asylum.

The Fields Medals are awarded to the most promising mathematicians under 40 every four years.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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