Birth of a Theorem: A Mathematical Adventure

Cédric Villani

In 2010, the French mathematician Cédric Villani won the Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics, for proof that he and his close friend Clément Mouhot came up with to explain one of the most surprising theories in classical physics. In Birth of a Theorem, Villani tells his story of the years before he won the award. It lets readers into the mind of a great mathematician as he struggles with the most important work of his career.

Birth of a Theorem is great, though you don’t have to understand nonlinear Landau damping to enjoy it. It doesn’t make things too easy or too complicated. Instead, it invites readers to work with it. Villani’s journals, emails, and thoughts pull you into the process of finding out about him. You work with him during slow times and late-night breakthroughs. You know what people are talking about in the dining halls of the best research institutions in the world. Villani talks about his favorite songs, how much he likes manga, and the stories he makes up for his kids. In mathematics, as in any creative work, the thinker’s whole life drives discovery. In Birth of a Theorem, Cédric Villani invites you into his life as a thinker.