Professor Don Zagier talks about “What is a good mathematical problem”
Adrian Cremin | 12/16/2021

On December 9, 2021, Don Zagier, a German mathematician famous for his work in number theory, was a guest speaker at the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) Lecture series.

He presented a lecture entitled “What is a good mathematical problem” to faculty members and students of the University. Qing XIANG, Chair Professor of the Department of Mathematics, presided over the event.

Prof. Zagier is the Director Emeritus of the Max Planck Institute of Mathematics in Bonn, Germany. He has also served as the Ramanujan International Chair at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, since 2014.

He became a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in 1997, a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2017, and an honorary member of the London Mathematical Society in 2019.

He has won multiple scientific awards, including the Cole Prize in Number Theory in 1987, the von Staudt Prize in 2001, and the Fudan-Zhongzhi Science Award in 2021.

In the lecture, Prof. Zagier interpreted various mathematical problems raised in history, such as the Basel problem and the Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem.

He said that even an outstanding mathematician like Leonhard Euler, who laid the foundations of graph theory and prefigured the idea of topology, often couldn’t distinguish what kind of mathematical problems were “good” problems. He encouraged the students of SUSTech not to dismiss problems that they may think are bad.

After the lecture, Jiping ZHANG, Director of the SUSTech International Center for Mathematics and Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), presented Prof. Zagier with a commemorative certificate for participating in the SUSTech Lecture series.

Afterward, Henian E, Curator of the SUSTech Library, presided over the book signing ceremony of Prof. Zagier.