Agnes Scott College

Raman Parimala

Raman Parimala

November 21, 1948 -

Raman Parimala was born in 1948 and raised in Tamilnadu, India. She studied at the Saradha Vidyalaya Girls' High School and Stella Maris College at Chennai. She received her M.Sc. from Madras University (1970) and her Ph.D. from Bombay University (1976). For many years, she was a professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai (Bombay), and she has held visiting positions at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, the University of Lausanne, University of California-Berkeley, University of Chicago, Ohio State, and the University of Paris at Orsay. In 2005 Parimala was appointed the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Mathematics at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Parimala works in algebra. Her research uses tools from number theory, algebraic geometry, and topology.

She is a fellow of all three Indian academies of science. She was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Zürich in 1994 and a plenary speaker at the 2010 ICM in Hyderabad [Video]. Her research has been recognized with the Bhatnagar Prize in 1987, an honorary doctorate from the University of Lausanne in 1999, and the Srinivasa Ramanujan Birth Centenary Award in 2003.

Parimala received the 2005 prize in mathematics from the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World for "her work on the quadratic analogue of Serre's conjecture, the triviality of principal homogeneous spaces of classical groups over fields of cohomological dimensions 2 and the μ-invariant of p-adic function fields." Prizes in the amount of $10,000 are awarded annually to scientists from developing countries who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of science. This was the first time in the 20-year history of the TWAS awards that a woman had been honored with the prize in either mathematics or physics.

The following is quoted from the 2005 press release:

Raman Parimala has been described as a "supreme and powerful algebraist". Early in her career, she published the first example of a nontrivial quadratic space over an affine plane. This result surprised many experts and has since led to further developments in the field.

Her study of quadratic forms also led her to investigate real algebraic geometry as well as complex algebraic geometry and the cohomology theories that are linked to it. Parimala has put this expertise to work in a series of elegant publications either supporting or refuting long-standing conjectures. Her study of low rank quadratic spaces, for example, led her to a new definition of discriminant that is an invariant for involutions of central simple algebras that allowed her to settle decomposability questions for involutions that date back to Albert in the 1930s.

Parimala has also brought light to the solution for the second Serre conjecture, expounded in 1962 but based on work by Witt around 1930. In another piece of work that has been described as a "tour-de-force", Raman has come closest to solving another long-standing conjecture. In the 1950s, it was predicted that the u-invariant of the rational function field over a p-adic field is finite and, in fact, equals 8. Until recently, even the finiteness of the u-invariant was not known, until demonstrated by Merkurjev. Van Geel-Hoffmann then calculated a value of around 22 for the u-invariant. Together with Suresh, Parimala has shown that the u-invariant of the function field of any curve over a p-adic field is less than or equal to 10, very close to the conjectured value of 8.

Read a story about "Her math adds up to a brilliant career" from the Emory University Emory Report, November 16, 2009.


  1. Personal communication, Skip Garibaldi, Emory University
  2. MathSciNet [subscription required]
  3. Author Profile at zbMath
  4. Mathematics Genealogy Project

Photo Credit: Photograph is used with the permission of the Mathematics Department of Emory University