The Vietnamese Mathematical Society

Founded in 1965

The Vietnamese Mathematical Society was founded on 15 August 1965. This was at a time when North Vietnam came under attack from the United States with a large build up of American troops taking place throughout the year in an attempt to prevent a communist takeover of the whole country. The University of Hanoi was closed down for four years, as were other educational institutions. It was the Vietnamese Mathematical Society which continued to support mathematical research with regularly organised seminars in optimisation, probability, functional analysis, algebra, and numerical analysis.

The two people most responsible for the founding of the Vietnamese Mathematical Society were Lê Văn Thiêm and Hoàng Tụy. Lê Văn Thiêm became the first President of the Society while Hoàng Tuy became the first Secretary. Let us give a brief biography of these two men.

Lê Văn Thiêm (1918-1991) was born in the commune of Trung Lễ in the Duc Tho District, Ha Tinh Province, Vietnam. When he was twelve years old his parents died and he was brought up by his older brother in Quy Nhon where he attended the local college. He then studied at the University of Indochina but, although mathematics had been his favourite subject at school, he had to take a science degree since the university had no specialist mathematics courses. Graduating in 1939 he was given a scholarship to study at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. The German invasion of France disrupted his studies and only in 1941 was he able to continue. He was awarded a Bachelor's Degree after one year of study and undertook research advised by Georges Valiron. His thesis Sur un problème d'inversion dans la théorie des fonctions méromorphes was presented to the Faculty of Science in Paris on 2 May 1949. He was appointed to the Zürich Technische Hochschule where he worked with Rolf Nevanlinna who had moved to Zürich after being asked to resign from the University of Helsinki at the end of World War II because he was known to have German sympathies. In his paper Über das Umkehrproblem der Wertverteilungslehre (1949), Lê Văn Thiêm thanks Nevanlinna for suggesting the problem. However, he was asked to return to Vietnam in 1949 and was pleased to help his country. He became one of the founders of higher education in Vietnam.

Hoàng Tụy was born at Xuan Dài village in Diên Bàn, Vietnam on 7 December 1927. He father died when he was four years old and he had a difficult childhood. He graduated with his Baccalaureate in 1946 he began studying at the University of Hanoi. However, in December 1946 the French invaded, Hanoi fell and the university closed. He took part in resistance against the French, lived for a while in the mountains, then, in 1947, began teaching mathematics at a High School which was completely destroyed in an attack by French planes in 1948. He attended the School of Basic Sciences, led by Lê Văn Thiêm from 1951 and in 1954, the year the country was partitioned at the 17th parallel, he began his career as a university lecturer teaching mathematics at the University of Science. From September 1957 he studied at Moscow State University for his doctorate which he received in April 1959 for his thesis On the structure of measurable functions. From 1961 to 1968 he was Head of the Mathematics Department at the University of Hanoi and he was the Director of the Vietnam Mathematics Institute from 1980 to 1989. He has published a large number of outstanding papers in the field of global optimization. For his remarkable contributions he was awarded the first Constantin Caratheodory Prize of the International Society of Global Optimization in 2011. The article [2] is an interview with Hoàng Tụy.

In [2] Hoàng Tụy explained the early work of the Vietnamese Mathematical Society:-
The Mathematical Society, which was founded in 1965 by Lê Văn Thiêm (I was general secretary), organized joint seminars in optimization, probability, functional analysis, algebra, numerical analysis. People from Hanoi University, the Pedagogical Institute, and the Polytechnic Institute participated (the Hanoi Mathematical Institute was not formed until 1970). Since the three institutions had been evacuated in different directions from Hanoi, we held the seminars in Hanoi. They met twice a month. I must say, people were very diligent about attending. Many of us would take advantage of the opportunity to visit our families. Since my wife and children were on the opposite side of Hanoi from the university, it was much more convenient for me to visit them after the seminars held in Hanoi.
In 1967 Alexander Grothendieck made a visit to address the Society in the middle of what was then was a war zone [2]:-
... he visited in November 1967. The first few days we organized his lectures in Hanoi. But one day a missile exploded only 100-200 meters from the lecture hall. As a result the higher education minister TQuangBuTạ Quang Bửu ordered us to be evacuated. I remember that Grothendieck was delighted with the news that we were being evacuated, and approached the unusual situation in a spirit of adventure. He gave a "short course" in category theory, homological algebra, and algebraic geometry, with ĐoaˋnQuyˋnhĐoàn Quỳnh as the main translator from French into Vietnamese. Grothendieck would lecture for four hours in the morning, and then hold consultations all afternoon. Even so, he always complained that he was underemployed. He was a strict vegetarian and observed a fast day every Monday.
Here is a list of Presidents and Secretaries of the Vietnamese Mathematical Society:
1966-1988 President: Lê Văn Thiêm; Secretary: Hoàng Tụy
1988-1994 President: Nguyễn Dình Trí; Secretary: Do Long Vân
1994-1999 President: Đỗ Long Vân; Secretary: Phum Thé Long
1999-2004 President: Đỗ Long Vân; Secretary: Phum Thé Long
2004-2008 President: Phum Thé Long; Secretary: Lê Tuán Hoa
2008-2013 President: Lê Tuấn Hoa; Secretary: Nguyễn Hữu Dư
The first Meeting of the Society took place before the January 1973 peace agreement and so is a meeting of the Mathematicians of North Vietnam. By the time of the second meeting in 1977, the Society was able to hold a Meeting of Mathematicians of Vietnam. Here are the conferences:
1971 The First Meeting of Mathematicians of North Vietnam held in Hà Nội
1977 The Second Meeting of Mathematicians of Vietnam held in Hà Nội
1985 The Third Meeting of Mathematicians of Vietnam held in Hà Nội
1990 The Fourth Meeting of Mathematicians of Vietnam held in Hà Nội
1997 The Fifth Meeting of Mathematicians of Vietnam held in Hà Nội
2002 The Sixth Meeting of Mathematicians of Vietnam held in Huế
2008 The Seventh Congress of Mathematicians of Vietnam held in Quy Nhơn
2013 The Eighth Congress of Mathematicians of Vietnam held in Nha Trang
The Purpose and Tasks of the Society are given in its Statutes. Here is a few of these:

The purpose of the Vietnamese Mathematical Society is to mobilize forces to promote research, application and dissemination of mathematics; improving the quality of teaching, identifying and nurturing talented people in mathematics; contributing to the development of mathematics and its applications to the science and technology of the country. The main tasks of the Society are: (i) To encourage a positive spirit and promote the creativity of members, contributing to promoting the development and application of mathematics for production and life; (ii) To disseminate basic knowledge, new achievements in research, and application of mathematics; (iii) To help members improve their professional qualifications in various ways such as: organising specialised classes, mathematics clubs, organising tours both in and outside the country, publishing books, brochures, journals, etc.; (iv) To contact overseas academic societies to promote international cooperation and to encourage overseas Vietnamese mathematicians to participate in building and developing their mathematical backgrounds.

The Bulletin of the Vietnamese Mathematical Society (Thông Tin Toán Học) aims to report the activities of the mathematics community of Vietnam. The Bulletin, which is published quarterly, began publication in 1997

The Lê Văn Thiêm Award

The Lê Văn Thiêm Award was created by the Vietnam Mathematical Association to recognise the outstanding achievements of teachers and students who have overcome difficulties to teach mathematics and mathematical skills. The award was created in1989 and the first awards were made in 1990. Phạm Xuan Du and Phan Thị Ha Duong were the first Lê Văn Thiêm winners and the awards were presented at the Polytechnic University. At first funds were very limited and individuals donated money to fund the awards. In 1997 the Award was re-organised and a Lê Văn Thiêm Fund was set up, and formal regulations were created.

Visit the society website.

References (show)

  1. Ha Huy Khoai and Nguyễn Thanh Van, On the Mathematical Work of Le Van Thiem, Acta Mathematica Vietnamica 27 (3) (2002), 249-250.
  2. N Koblitz, Recollections of mathematics in a country under siege, Math. Intelligencer 12 (3) (1990), 16-34.
  3. Vietnamese Mathematical Society website.

Last Updated February 2018