International Mathematical Union

International Mathematical Union

IMU logo based on the Borromean rings
Legal status unincorporated association, recognized as a charitable organization by the internal revenue service of Berlin, Germany
Purpose Promoting International Cooperation in Mathematics
Shigefumi Mori
Parent organization
International Council for Science

The International Mathematical Union (IMU) is an international non-governmental organisation devoted to international cooperation in the field of mathematics across the world. It is a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and supports the International Congress of Mathematicians. Its members are national mathematics organizations from more than 80 countries.[1]

The objectives of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) are to promote international cooperation in mathematics. By supporting and assisting the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) and other international scientific meetings/conferences. To acknowledge outstanding research contributions to mathematics, through the awarding of scientific prizes and to encourage and support other international mathematical activities, considered likely to contribute to the development of mathematical science in any of its aspects, whether pure, applied, or educational.

The IMU was established in 1920, but dissolved in September 1932 and then re-established 1950 de facto at the Constitutive Convention in New York, de jure on September 10, 1951, when ten countries had become members. The last milestone was the General Assembly in March 1952, in Rome, Italy where the activities of the new IMU were inaugurated and the first Executive Committee, President and various commissions where elected. In 1952 the IMU was also readmitted to the ICSU. The past president of the Union is Ingrid Daubechies (2011–2014). The current president is Shigefumi Mori who is the first head of the group from Asia.[2]

At the 16th meeting of the IMU General Assembly in Bangalore, India, in August 2010, Berlin was chosen as the location of the permanent office of the IMU, which was opened on January 1, 2011, and is hosted by the Weierstrass Institute for Applied Analysis and Stochastics (WIAS), an institute of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Scientific Community, with about 120 scientists engaging in mathematical research applied to complex problems in industry and commerce.[3][4]

Commissions and committees

IMU has a close relationship to mathematics education through its International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI). This commission is organized similarly to IMU with its own Executive Committee and General Assembly.

Developing countries are a high priority for the IMU and a significant percentage of their budget, including grants received from individuals, mathematical societies, foundations, and funding agencies, is spent on activities for developing countries. Since 2011 this has been coordinated by the Commission for Developing Countries (CDC).

The International Commission for the History of Mathematics (ICHM) is operated jointly by the IMU and the Division of the History of Science (DHS) of the International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science (IUHPS).

The Committee on Electronic Information and Communication (CEIC) advises IMU on matters concerning mathematical information, communication, and publishing.[5]


The scientific prizes awarded by the IMU are deemed to be the highest distinctions in the mathematical world. The opening ceremony of the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) is where the awards are presented: Fields Medals (two to four medals are given since 1936), the Rolf Nevanlinna Prize (since 1986), the Carl Friedrich Gauss Prize (since 2006), and the Chern Medal Award (since 2010).

Membership and General Assembly

The IMU's members are Member Countries and each Member country is represented through an Adhering Organization, which may be its principal academy, a mathematical society, its research council or some other institution or association of institutions, or an appropriate agency of its government. A country starting to develop its mathematical culture and interested in building links to mathematicians all over the world is invited to join IMU as an Associate Member. For the purpose of facilitating jointly sponsored activities and jointly pursuing the objectives of the IMU, multinational mathematical societies and professional societies can join IMU as an Affiliate Member. Every four years the IMU membership gathers in a General Assembly (GA) which consists of delegates appointed by the Adhering Organizations, together with the members of the Executive Committee. All important decisions are made at the GA, including the election of the officers, establishment of commissions, the approval of the budget, and any changes to the statutes and by-laws.

Organization and Executive Committee

The International Mathematical Union is administered by an Executive Committee (EC) which conducts the business of the Union.[6] The EC consists of the President, two Vice-Presidents, the Secretary, six Members-at-Large, all elected for a term of four years, and the Past President. The EC is responsible for all policy matters and for tasks, such as choosing the members of the ICM Program Committee and various prize committees.


Every two months IMU publishes an electronic newsletter, IMU-Net, that aims to improve communication between IMU and the worldwide mathematical community by reporting on decisions and recommendations of the Union, major international mathematical events and developments, and on other topics of general mathematical interest. IMU Bulletins are published annually with the aim to inform IMU’s members about the Union’s current activities. In 2009 IMU published the document Best Current Practices for Journals.[7]

IMU’s Involvement in Developing Countries

The IMU took its first organized steps towards the promotion of mathematics in developing countries in the early 1970s and has, since then supported various activities. In 2010 IMU formed the Commission for Developing Countries (CDC) which brings together all of the past and current initiatives in support of mathematics and mathematicians in the developing world.

Some IMU Supported Initiatives:

IMU also supports the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI) with its programmes, exhibits and workshops in emerging countries, especially in Asia and Africa.

IMU released a report in 2008, Mathematics in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities, on the current state of mathematics in Africa and on opportunities for new initiatives to support mathematical development.[9] In 2014, the IMU's Commission for Developing Countries CDC released an update of the report.[10]

Additionally, reports about Mathematics in Latin America and the Caribbean and South East Asia.[11] were published.

In July 2014 IMU released the report: The International Mathematical Union in the Developing World: Past, Present and Future (July 2014). [12]

MENAO Symposium at the ICM

In 2014, the IMU held a day-long symposium prior to the opening of the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), entitled Mathematics in Emerging Nations: Achievements and Opportunities (MENAO). Approximately 260 participants from around the world, including representatives of embassies, scientific institutions, private business and foundations attended this session. Attendees heard inspiring stories of individual mathematicians and specific developing nations.[13][14]



List of presidents of the International Mathematical Union from 1952 to the present:

1952–1954: United States Marshall Harvey Stone (vice: France Émile Borel, Germany Erich Kamke)

1955–1958: Germany Heinz Hopf (vice: France Arnaud Denjoy, United Kingdom W. V. D. Hodge)

1959–1962: Finland Rolf Nevanlinna (vice: Soviet Union Pavel Alexandrov, United States Marston Morse)

1963–1966: Switzerland Georges de Rham (vice: France Henri Cartan, Poland Kazimierz Kuratowski)

1967–1970: France Henri Cartan (vice: Soviet Union Mikhail Lavrentyev, United States Deane Montgomery)

1971–1974: India K. S. Chandrasekharan (vice: United States Abraham Adrian Albert, Soviet Union Lev Pontryagin)

1975–1978: United States Deane Montgomery (vice: United Kingdom J. W. S. Cassels, Romania Miron Nicolescu, Romania Gheorghe Vrânceanu)

1979–1982: Sweden Lennart Carleson (vice: Japan Masayoshi Nagata, Soviet Union Yuri Vasilyevich Prokhorov)

1983–1986: Germany Jürgen Moser (vice: Soviet Union Ludvig Faddeev, France Jean-Pierre Serre)

1987–1990: Soviet Union Ludvig Faddeev (vice: Austria Walter Feit, Sweden Lars Hörmander)

1991–1994: France Jacques-Louis Lions (vice: United Kingdom John H. Coates, United States David Mumford)

1995–1998: United States David Mumford (vice: Russia Vladimir Arnold, Germany Albrecht Dold)

1999–2002: Brazil Jacob Palis (vice: United Kingdom Simon Donaldson, Japan Shigefumi Mori)

2003–2006: United Kingdom John M. Ball (vice: France Jean-Michel Bismut, Japan Masaki Kashiwara)

2007–2010: Hungary László Lovász (vice: China Zhi-Ming Ma, Italy Claudio Procesi)

2011–2014: Belgium Ingrid Daubechies (vice: France Christiane Rousseau, Brazil Marcelo Viana)

2015–2018: Japan Shigefumi Mori (vice: Argentina Alicia Dickenstein, New Zealand Vaughan Jones)


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