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Vladimir Voevodsky, who changed the face of mathematics, dies at 51

Voevodsky (left) is awarded the Fields Medal — mathematics' highest prize — in 2002. Photo: Greg Baker / AP

Vladimir Voevodsky, a groundbreaking computer scientist and mathematician, died in his home in Princeton, New Jersey on Sept. 30. Voevodsky was 51 and had been a professor at Princeton University for 15 years.

The Russian-born Voevodosky is credited with pioneering the "motivic homotopy theory" field of mathematics and ushering in the use of computers to check scholars' proofs. Voevodsky's work in computer science was so revolutionary that it shifted the meaning of the = sign, the New York Times reports.

From Voevodsky's colleagues, per the Times:

  • His work "changes the very meaning of what the equals sign means in mathematics ... The foundations of math are like a constitutional document that spells out the governing rules all mathematicians agree to play by. He has given us a new constitution." —Thomas Hales, University of Pittsburgh
  • "His contributions are so fundamental that it's impossible to imagine how things were thought of before him." —Chris Kapulkin, University of Western Ontario

Go deeper: The New York Times' obituary of Vladimir Voevodsky