Mathematics occupies a privileged place among the sciences. It embodies the quintessence of human knowledge, reaching into every field of human endeavor. The frontiers of mathematical understanding evolve today in deep and unfathomable ways. Fundamental advances go hand in hand with discoveries in all fields of science. Technological applications of mathematics underpin our daily life, including our ability to communicate thanks to cryptology and coding theory, our ability to navigate and to travel, our health and well-being, our security, and they also play a central role in our economy. The evolution of mathematics will remain a central to shaping civilization.
To appreciate the scope of mathematical truth challenges the capabilities of the human mind. In order to celebrate mathematics in the new millennium, The Clay Mathematics Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts (CMI) has named seven "Millennium Prize Problems." The Scientific Advisory Board of CMI selected these problems, focusing on important classic questions that have resisted solution over the years. The Board of Directors of CMI designated a $7 million prize fund for the solution to these problems, with $1 million allocated to each. A leading specialist in the domain in question has formulated each problem. The rules for the award of the prize have been recommended by the Scientific Advisory Board of the CMI, and approved by the Directors.
During the Millennium Meeting held on May 24, 2000 at the Collège de France, Timothy Gowers presented a lecture entitled "The Importance of Mathematics," aimed for the general public, while John Tate and Michael Atiyah spoke on the problems. One hundred years earlier, on August 8, 1900, David Hilbert delivered his famous lecture about open mathematical problems at the second International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris. This influenced our decision to announce the millennium problems as the central theme of a Paris meeting.
The members of these boards have the responsibilitiy to preserve the nature, the integrity, and the spirit of this prize.
Paris, May 24, 2000