The late nineteenth century was a remarkable period in the history of the sciences. Mathematics, in particular, saw the emergence of a series of discoveries ranging from the logical foundations of the discipline to traditional areas, such as algebra and geometry.
It was in this context that in 1897 was held the first edition of the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM). On this occasion were formulated the objectives that guide the event until today: foster contact between mathematicians from different countries; present recent advances in the area; and promote cooperation on several fronts.
Throughout the years, ICM has been a privileged stage for world mathematics. From the scientific point of view, the discussions and expositions in these conferences have helped disseminate new areas of research and foster meaningful exchanges. In some cases, such Hilbert's famous lecture at the 1900 conference, events at ICM have ended up influencing the development of mathematics for decades to come.
ICM has also been an important instrument for the internationalization of mathematics. The conference was able to overcome the contentions raised by the First World War (in 1932) and the difficulties of communication between the two sides of the iron curtain (from 1957).
In recent years, ICM has sought to facilitate the participation of mathematicians from developing countries. The International Mathematical Union (IMU) is the body that brings together the mathematical societies from countries around the world; it grew out of the ICMs and manages the current editions of the conference.
Nowadays, the International Congress of Mathematicians is the undisputed world’s premier forum for presenting and discussing new mathematical discoveries. In 2018, it will be 121 years that have passed since the first conference and Rio de Janeiro's turn to welcome participants from around the world, in the 28th ICM.
Our goal is to do justice to this history and at the same time to further the success of this series of events – expanding knowledge, exchanging experiences, and fostering an awareness of mathematics in a broad and innovative way. The joy, receptiveness and professionalism of Brazilians will make the Rio de Janeiro ICM a memorable experience far beyond the realm of mathematics.