Turkish Mathematician Ali Nesin wins the 2018 Leelavati Prize


Renowned Turkish mathematician, Ali Nesin, has been awarded the prestigious Leelavati Award by the International Mathematical Union for his outstanding efforts to attract Turkish people’s interests in mathematics and establish a ‘Mathematics Village.’  

Ali Nesin is the recipients of the 2018 Leelavati Prize. Ali Nesin was given the award at the 2018 International Congress of Mathematicians was held during 1-9 August 2018 at Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (http://www.icm2018.org/ and http://www.mathunion.org/).

This is for his tireless work in creating the “Mathematics Village” in Şirince, western Turkey, as an exceptional, peaceful place for education, research and the exploration of mathematics for anyone. The citation for Ali Nesin’s award released by the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union reads thus:

“….for his outstanding contributions towards increasing public awareness of mathematics in Turkey, in particular for his tireless work in creating the “Mathematical Village” as an exceptional, peaceful place for education, research and the exploration of mathematics for anyone.”

The Leelavati Prize recognizes outstanding contributions for increasing public awareness of mathematics as an intellectual discipline and the crucial role it plays in diverse human endeavours.

The Prize is sponsored by the multinational corporation, Infosys and carries a cash endowment of one million (ten lakh) Indian Rupees. It is named after the mathematical treatise “Lilavati” written by the renowned Indian mathematician and astronomer, Bhaskara II (also known as Bhāskarāchārya) in 1150. Since 2010, it has been awarded to three persons.

Ali Nesin was born on 18 November 1957 in Istanbul, Turkey. He graduated from the University of Paris VII and worked as lecturer at Berkeley Campus of the University of California at Yale from 1985 to 1986. He did PhD in 1985 from the University of Yale.  he returned to Turkey in 1995. He has an Erdős number of three.

Ali Nesin is the son of the eminent Turkish writer and humourist, Aziz Nesin and story writer Meral Çelen. From his father, Nesin inherited the Nesin Foundation (http://www.alinesin.org/).

The Foundation provided shelter to needy children enabling them to complete university education. After returning to Turkey in 1995, Ali took up a position at the Mathematics Department of Bilgi University in Istanbul.

At this stage he noticed the shortcomings in the mathematics education prompting him to start summer courses for students entering the university.

In 2007, Nesin established the Mathematics Village (http://matematikkoyu.org/eng/), a mathematics summer school and a research centre that aims to spread knowledge and a love for mathematics as a science in Turkey. It does not follow the Turkish Ministry of Education curriculum or any other fixed syllabus and aims to teach math to everyone from primary school level to PhD!

Around fifteen paid staff and nearly one hundred volunteers work there every year. Each year over one thousand students mill through the Mathematics Village with support from volunteer teachers around the globe.

Simon Lehna Singh is the only person of Indian origin to have received the Leelavati Prize (the inaugural prize in 2010). We need the “Mathematics Villages” and similar efforts world-wide to encourage students to do mathematics, which plays a crucial role in sciences.



  1. Krishnaswami Alladi and Gabriela Asli Rino Nesin, The Nesin Mathematics Village in Turkey, Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 62 (6) 652-658 (2015). http://dx.doi.org/10.1090/noti1258 
  1. Sameen Ahmed Khan, Death of a Science Icon: Maryam Mirzakhani (1977-2017), Young Muslim Digest, Vol. 39, Issue 9, pp. 40-41 (September 2017).