Nesin, (Hüseyin) Ali (b. November 18, 1957, Istanbul), a mathematician who established the Nesin Mathematics Village and received the Vehbi Koç Award in 2015 for his contribution to education.
Ali Nesin completed his middle school education at Saint-Joseph French High School in Istanbul (1973) and high school education at Collège Champittet (1977) in Lausanne, Switzerland. He studied mathematics at Paris VII (Diderot) University (1977-81). After he received his doctorate in mathematics from Yale University (1985), he taught at the University of California, Berkeley (1985-86). In 1986, he returned to Turkey to complete his short-term military service. During this time, he was arrested and charged with “incitement to mutiny” after objecting to the same syringe being used to vaccinate numerous privates, but he was acquitted after the trial. After becoming professor in 1987, he taught in the Notre Dame University (1987-88) and University of California, Irvine (1990-96). In the 1993-94 academic year, he worked as a visiting lecturer at Bilkent University. Returning to Turkey in 1996, following the death of his father, Aziz Nesin (1995), Prof. Ali Nesin took on the management of the Nesin Foundation and also set up the Bilgi University Department of Mathematics, where he is still the chairperson. During the years 2001-02, Prof. Nesin worked as visiting lecturer at Lyon University, and he has been an elected member of the Science Academy since 2013.
For ten years, Ali Nesin organized summer schools all over Turkey, driven by his belief that university mathematics education was inadequate. In 2007, with the support of Sevan Nişanyan, he established the Mathematics Village in Şirince, a village in the Selçuk area of Izmir. This non-profit institution, which is a global exemplar, opens its doors to over one thousand students every year. The school benefits from the voluntary support of respected academicians from Turkey and across the globe.
In 2015, Prof. Ali Nesin and the Mathematics Village received the Vehbi Koç Award for “breaking the mold of mathematics education in Turkey and for an exceptional achievement in the field of creative education.” In his speech at the award ceremony, Prof. Nesin stated that mathematics, philosophy and art were not meant to bring money, but should be a way of life: “These things can't teach you what to think; they teach you how to think and to think about everything. They produce nothing, but are useful for everything. I give my students a problem to solve, and they think for two hours. The problem itself won’t produce anything. But in order to persist in conjecture, conceptualize the problem correctly, explain the solution and solve the problem, you need to understand its challenges. This is useful for all things in life—in human relationships, in societal relationships and in your relationship with yourself.” He also vowed that the award money would go to the construction of a Philosophy Village, also in Şirince.
Along with Prof. Nesin's various academic articles, he has also published the following popular books on mathematics: Matematik ve Doğa (Mathematics and Nature) (2007), Matematik ve Sonsuz (Mathematics and Infinity) (2007), Matematik ve Oyun (Mathematics and Games) (2007), Matematik ve Korku (Mathematics and Fear) (2008), Matematik ve Develerle Eşekler (Mathematics and Donkeys with Camels) (2008), Matematik ve Gerçek (Mathematics and Reality) (2009), Matematik Canavarı (Mathematics Monster) (2010) and Matematik ve Sanat (Mathematics and Art) (2012), as well as the following academic/scientific books: Önermeler Mantığı (Propositional Logic) (2009), Sayma (Counting) (2009) and Sezgisel Kümeler Kuramı (Intuitive Set Theory) (2009), Analiz I (Analysis I) (2011), Analiz IV (Analysis IV) (2011), Analiz II (Analysis II) (2015), Temel Grup Teorisi (Basic Group Theory) (2015), Fen Liseleri İçin Matematik 1: Kümeler Kuramı (Mathematics I for Science High Schools: Set Theory) (2017), and Fen Liseleri İçin Matematik 2: Doğal Sayılar Yapısı (Mathematics II for Science High Schools: The Structure of Natural Numbers) (2017). His correspondence with his father, Aziz Nesin, was first published in 1994 in four volumes as Aziz Nesin-Ali Nesin Mektuplaşmaları (Aziz Nesin and Ali Nesin: A Correspondence). In 2002, the book, Canım Oğlum Canım Babacığım (Dear Father, Dear Son) was printed in two volumes. From 2003 to 2013, Prof. Nesin was editor in chief of the Turkish Mathematics Association's magazine, Matematik Dünyası (Mathematics World). In 2016, a book created from biographical interviews with Aslıhan Lodi was published, Matematik Köyünün Delisi Ali Nesin (The Mathematics Village Idiot: Ali Nesin).
In addition to the major contribution he has made to the mathematics world over the last 20 years through numerous published articles, books, and research, Prof. Nesin has also changed the way many young people look at mathematics, making it more accessible and even a popular science. In 2018, Prof. Nesin was awarded the Leelavati Prize of the International Mathematical Union “for his outstanding contributions towards increasing public awareness of mathematics in Turkey, in particular for his tireless work in creating the Mathematical Village.”