Fields Medal winner Cédric Villani: ‘the human brain is not designed for maths’

The flamboyant mathematician, whose semi-autobiographical book is published this week, reveals his pet dinosaur, teaching methods and mysterious love of spiders

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Professor Cédric Villani, 41, is a French mathematician who focuses chiefly on the theory of partial differential equations and mathematical physics. After winning the Fermat and Henri Poincaré prizes in 2009, he was awarded the prestigious Fields Medal – described as the ‘Nobel Prize for Mathematics’ – in 2010 for his work on optimal transport and kinetic theory. Villani, who is a household name in France, is director of the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris and a professor at Lyon University; his part-autobiographical book, Birth of a Theorem: A Mathematical Adventure (Bodley Head, £18.99), was published this week. Villani lives in the Parisian suburbs with his wife, Claire, 40, a biologist, and their two children.

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