Dr. John Charles Fields

(BA 1884 UC)

A noted Canadian mathematician, John Charles Fields is the founder of the prestigious Fields Medal for outstanding achievement in mathematics.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1863, he graduated from University College before leaving for the United States to study at Johns Hopkins University, where received his PhD in 1887.

Disillusioned with the state of mathematical research in North America at the time, he left for Europe in 1891, where he associated with some of the greatest mathematical minds of the time. He began publishing papers on a new topic, algebraic functions, which would prove to be the most fruitful research field of his career.

Returning to Canada in 1902 to lecture at the University of Toronto, Fields worked tirelessly to raise the stature of mathematics within academic and public circles. He helped establish the National Research Council of Canada as well as the Ontario Research Foundation.  He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1907 and Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1913.

He is best known for his development of the Fields Medal, considered to be the Nobel Prize in mathematics. Created in 1936, it is awarded to two to four mathematicians under the age of 40 who have made important contributions to the field. The Fields Institute at the University of Toronto is named in his honour.