As Nobel Prize winners were announced in dribs and drabs this week, one eminent field was missing: mathematics. Rumours abound as to why Alfred Nobel, founder of the prestigious suite of Nobel Prize accolades, decided to snub mathematics.

My favourite theory is that Nobel’s girlfriend was having an affair with a mathematician. Embittered with the profession, legend has it; he excluded mathematics from the prestigious prizes. Unfortunately (or, rather fortunately for Nobel) there isn’t much evidence for this legend. More likely, Nobel just wasn’t that interested in mathematics. He created his Nobel Foundation to promote science that would benefit humankind practically, and perhaps he didn’t think maths would do that.

Budding young mathematicians seeking prizes are not to fear, however. The prestigious Fields Medal has cropped up in its place and is affectionately known as ‘the Nobel Prize of Mathematics’. Every four years the Fields Medal is awarded to accomplished mathematicians who are under 40 years of age. Often, after leading fairly quiet lives, winners of the medal are suddenly thrust into the limelight. Edited from The extraordinary winners of the Fields Medal for mathematics