Opening remarks by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Helsinki on 5 July 2022

Dear congress participants and guests,

It is a great honour for Finland and our national scientific community to have the International Mathematical Union (IMU) congress in Helsinki today. Last time Finland had the chance to host your meeting in 1978. Over the next few days, international delegations will have the opportunity to meet each other and share the latest news. Some award ceremonies will also take place, as it is time to award the Fields medals. The Abacus prize for mathematical computing, which is sponsored by the University of Helsinki, will also be awarded at this congress.

Finland is a country of people with curios minds. As a nation, we have performed well in the field of mathematics. For this, we owe special thanks to the Finnish teachers, who have been encouraging generations after generations to learn and ask the right questions.

Similarly, mathematics is a story of thirst for knowledge. After all, the Greek word for mathematician, mathematikós, stands for “fond of learning”.

The humankind learned to count before they learned how to write. Trading would have been impossible without an understanding of the number or prices of products. But most important, at least in my mind, is that the mathematics give basis for logical thinking, for whatever you are doing.

“If I were again beginning my studies, I would follow the advice of Plato and start with mathematics.” This quote from Galileo Galilei still holds true. I found it as a Minister of Finance while listening my colleague who started his speeches sometimes by saying that there are three kind of ministers of finance: those who can count and those who can’t count.

Distinguished scientific community,

Originally, the intention was to arrange this event in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Unfortunately, the events in Ukraine over the past few months have demonstrated the capacity of human mind to do utterly destructive deeds. As human beings, it is our task to do everything we can to end the war and to help the people of Ukraine. In the same way, the scientific community can also extend a helping hand. For example, Finnish higher education institutions have offered places of study, accommodation and support for the Ukrainians who have come to Finland.

It has been told that mathematicians are always right. Where progress in other fields of science is often about correcting earlier theories, mathematics is about expanding them. The learned people within the field bring something new to earlier knowledge. Very seldom, the situation is such that they would need to abandon their present theories.

I believe and I hope that you will do the right thing again. You mathematicians have been driving change, and you will be changing all our lives even in the future with your new ideas.

I welcome you all to the summery Helsinki and wish you a very successful congress.

And please, do enjoy the very typical Finnish summer weather.