British academic James Maynard and Ukrainian expert Maryna Viazovska have been named as two of the four recipients of the prestigious Fields Medal – often described as the Nobel Prize in mathematics.

The International Mathematical Union said Ms Viazovska, who holds the chair in number theory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, was honoured for her work on the densest packing of identical spheres in eight dimensions.

Alongside the University of Oxford’s Mr Maynard, who is an expert in analytic number theory, with a particular focus on prime numbers, the other winners were French mathematician Hugo Duminil-Copin of the University of Geneva and Korean-American mathematician June Huh of Princeton.

Maryna Viazovska
Maryna Viazovska (Lehtikuva via AP)

The Fields Medal is awarded every four years to mathematicians under the age of 40.

The recipients are normally announced at the International Congress of Mathematicians, which was originally due to be held in Russia this year but was moved to Helsinki instead.

The president of the International Mathematical Union, Carlos E Kenig, said: “The ongoing barbaric war that Russia still continues to wage against Ukraine clearly shows that no other alternative was feasible.”

Ms Viazovska said Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February had profoundly changed her life and those of all Ukrainians.

Fields Medal winners
Maryna Vjazovska, James Maynard, June Huh and Hugo Duminil-Copin (Lehtikuva via AP)

“When the war started I could not think about anything else, including mathematics,” she said, adding that teaching has offered some respite.

“When I’m in front of class, I have to forget about everything else because I have to be very focused.

“This made me forget about the fear and pain inside myself.”

Ms Viazovska recently dedicated one of her lectures to Yulia Zdanovksa, a young Ukrainian mathematician and computer scientist from Kharkiv. who was killed in a Russian missile attack.

“When someone like her dies, it’s like the future dies,” Ms Viazovska said.

“Right now, Ukrainians are giving the highest price for our beliefs and for our freedom.”