The Fields Medal was first awarded in 1936, and every four years it is delivered to a maximum of four mathematicians aged under 40 with outstanding achievement in the area. In total, 52 mathematicians have already received the award, which is often described as the Nobel Prize of Mathematics.
Avila's career began early. According to the Brazilian Academy of Sciences website, he won a gold medal at the International Mathematical Olympiad in Canada at age 16, outperforming 411 participants from 72 countries.
Since then, he began attending postgraduate classes at Brazil's Pure and Applied Mathematics Institute (IMPA), in Rio de Janeiro, where he took his master's degree parallel to his high school and doctorate studies.
At 19, Avila was already working on his doctoral thesis on Dynamical Systems Theory, which he completed in 2001 and set out for a postdoctoral fellow in France. Between 2003 and 2008, he held a permanent position at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris. And in 2008, he became the youngest mathematician to become a senior researcher at CNRS. Today, he divides his time between CNRS activities and a career at IMPA.
His main scientific works are related to the field of renormalization, a theory which played a key role in particle physics and led to Richard Feynman's Nobel Prize award in Physics in 1965, and in Statistical Physics, where Kenneth Wilson was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize.
Besides Avila, the other 2014 medallists are the Canadian-American Manjul Bhargava, Princeton University; Austrian Martin Hairer, University of Warwick; and Iranian Maryam Mirzakhani, Stanford University.
Other Brazilians will also feature at ICM. This will be the first time that four mathematicians from IMPA, including Avila himself, will participate as speakers. Approximately 4,500 researchers from hundreds of countries will attend the congress, which shares the latest advancements in the area.
Through her personal Twitter account, President Dilma Rousseff congratulated the researcher on the achievement, saying that this world recognition is a pride for Brazilian science and Brazil.
"Avila was chosen, among other reasons, for his work in the area of dynamical systems, a.k.a. the chaos theory, which is designed to describe and predict the way in which all systems that change over time evolve," Rousseff wrote.