Modern Mathematicians: Cédric Villani

Cédric Villani is acedric-villani-recadre.jpg French mathematician who attended the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, studying there from 1992 to 1996. In 1998, he completed his PhD on the mathematical theory of the Boltzman equation. From 2000 to 2010, Villani was a professor at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, and is now at the Lyon University.

Villani describes how he enjoys topics that combine several of the following areas in mathematics: Evolution partial differential equations, Fluid mechanics, Statistical mechanics, Probability theory, Smooth and non-smooth “metric” Riemannian geometry and Functional inequalities with geometric content.

More particularly, his main work has been on kinetic theory: Boltzmann and Vlasov equations and their variants, and, more recently, optimal transport and its applications to differential geometry. For his work, he has received many awards and honours including the Henri Poincaré Prize and the Fermat Prize in 2009 and the prestigious Fields Medal in 2010.

In addition to this, in 2015 he released a part-autobiographical book called ‘Birth of a Theorem: A Mathematical Adventure’, which recounts the story of the three years leading up to the Fields Medal, inviting readers inside his mind as he tackles the most important work of his career.

Personally, I love Villani. Yes, he’s an eclectic character – always seen wearing mid-century clothes – but he is a great speaker. I thoroughly recommend his book and I’ve listed below some interesting links if you’re interested in finding out more about him.

Interesting Guardian Article

TED Talk by Villani



      1. It took me 4 days to complete this book and here is the promised review:

        This book appears to be a collection of some jottings from Villani’s personal diary. The theorem in focus is regarding “Landau Damping” (paper: “On Landau Damping”, Acta Mathematica September 2011, Volume 207, Issue 1, pp 29-201). John Nash is Villani’s hero and in my openion “Villani = Nash – (ego) – (paranoid schizophrenia)” since just like Nash he “wanted” to win Fields Medal (see chapter 11 & 29). What makes Villani different from other mathematicians is his “collaboration skills”. In words of Villani (pp. 135) “The ability to detect hidden connection between different areas of mathematics is what has made my reputation”. My favourite chapters were: 1,2,5,6,7,9,19,20, 22,27,30,31,32,34,39,41 and 42 (out of total 44 chapters). Apart from this book I also enjoyed this interview:

        NOTE: Villani calls “3x+1 conjecture”, “Syracuse Problem” (pp. 172)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I personally think Villani is a very good communicator and is really good at popularizing the subject through the lectures and interviews he gives etc. and I admire that in him. I’m glad you enjoyed the book 🙂 I’ll think of doing more blog posts on more books. Any recommendations?


      3. I can make 3 types of recommendations based upon what you liked about Villani’s book:

        (1) If you liked writing style then go for any book by Marcus du Sautoy or Simon Singh.

        (2) If you liked the way important mathematical ideas were conveyed while discussing biography, go for “The Mathematics of Sonya Kovalevskaya” (Differential Equations) or “Love and Math” (Langlands Program)

        (3) If you wish to read the biographies which inspired Villani then go for “Alan Turing: The Enigma” or “A beautiful mind (book)”.

        Liked by 1 person

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