Brief history of Mathematics in Brazil

Brazil is a relative newcomer to the world of science, largely due to the late development of its institutions of higher education and research. Early progress, around the beginning of the 20th century, focused on specific fields such as public health or agriculture. Mathematics was no priority at that stage.

The first mathematics seminar was organized in 1935 by the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of the University of São Paulo. The Faculty had been founded in the previous year and also launched a mathematics journal. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, this institution hired in visiting positions several distinguished foreign mathematicians, including André Weil, Oscar Zariski, Jean Dieudonné and Alexander Grothendieck.

A turning point at the national level was the creation, in 1951, of the two major federal research agencies, CNPq and CAPES. The Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA) was founded by CNPq in 1952, and Brazil joined the International Mathematical Union (IMU) in 1954. The Brazilian Mathematics Colloquium was created by IMPA in 1957 and has been organized biennially ever since. Much of Brazilian mathematics grew around it. 

In 1962, Leopoldo Nachbin became the first Brazilian to deliver an invited lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), in Stockholm. He was followed by Mauricio Peixoto at ICM 1974, in Vancouver. The Brazilian Mathematical Society (SBM) was created during the 7th Brazilian Mathematics Colloquium, in 1969, and soon became the country’s adhering organization to the IMU.

Within the IMU structure, Brazil moved to Group II in 1978 and to Group III in 1981. The latest development was in 2005, when Brazil was promoted to Group IV. Throughout, Brazilian mathematicians have been giving significant contributions to the functioning of the Union. 

Professor JACOB PALIS Matemático, estudioso dos sistemas dinâmicos e presidente da Academia Brasileira de Ciências posa para foto na Casa do Alentejo centro de Lisboa em 02 Março de 2011 – FOTO/PAULO AMORIM

Jacob Palis was the IMU secretary in 1991-1998 and the IMU president in 1999-2002. Paulo Cordaro was a member of the IMU Commission for Development and Exchange in 2007-2010. Marcelo Viana was an IMU vice-president in 2011-2014 and served as a member-at-large of the IMU Executive Committee in 2007-2010.

In 2014, Artur Avila, a researcher and former graduate student from IMPA, was awarded the Fields Medal. In that same year, Brazil was honored with the right to organize the International Congress of Mathematicians, ICM 2018, and the International Mathematical Olympiad, IMO 2017. Both events will take place in Rio de Janeiro, respectively, on August 1 – 9, 2018 and July 12 – 23, 2017.