Birthday: April 22, 1929
Died At Age: 89
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Michael Francis Atiyah
Born Country: England
Born in: Hampstead, London, England, United Kingdom
Famous as: Mathematician
Spouse/Ex-: Lily Brown (m. 1955)
father: Edward Atiyah
mother: Jean Levens
Died on: January 11, 2019
City: London, England
education: Trinity College, Manchester Grammar School, Victoria College - Alexandria
awards: Fields Medal
Fellow of the Royal Society
King Faisal International Prize
De Morgan Medal
Josiah Willard Gibbs Lectureship
Who was Michael Atiyah?
Sir Michael Atiyah was a British-Lebanese mathematician who made remarkable contributions to geometry as well as topology. He was also popular as co-developer of the topological K-theory, as well as the Atiyah-Singer index theorem. Atiyah was born in Hampstead, London, in the UK, and he grew up in Sudan and Egypt. He spent most of his academic life in the UK where he studied at the University of Oxford, as well as the University of Cambridge. He also later went to US and studied at the Institute Advanced Study. For some time, he was also the President of the Royal Society. He was the founding director of the Isaac Newton Institure as well. From 1997, till his death in 2019, he was an honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh. He had also received a knighthood as well as the Order of Merit. Throughout his career, has also published several books such as ‘K-theory’, ‘Geometry of Yang-Mills Fields’, and ‘The Geometry and Physics of Knots’.
Childhood & Early Life
Michael Francis Atiyah was born in Hampstead, London, on 22 April 1929. His parents were Jean and Edward Atiyah. His mother was Scottish, while his father was Lebanese. He had three siblings named Patrick, Joe and Selma. He grew up in Sudan and Egypt. While in Sudan, he attended the Diocesan School, in Khartoum, and while in Egypt, he studied at the Victoria College in Cairo.
He eventually returned to England, where he continued his studies at Manchester Grammar School. He next did his national service with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He did his undergraduate and postgraduate studies from Trinity College, Cambridge. He studied Ph D under William V.D. Hodge. He received his doctorate in 1955, for his thesis `Some Applications of Topological Methods in Algebraic Geometry`.
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Michael Atiyah began his career at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and after a while, he returned to Cambridge University, where he became research fellow as well as an assistant lecturer. He next became a university lecturer as well as tutorial fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge. In 1961, he joined the University of Oxford, where he was a reader and professional fellow at St Catherine`s College till 1963.
He next became Savilian Professor of Geometry as well as professorial fellow at New College, Oxford. He served in this post till 1969. Atiyah next took up a three-year professorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, US. After completing it, he returned to Oxford and became member of the Royal Society. He became a professorial fellow St Catherine`s College. From 1974 to 1976, he was also the president of the London Mathematical Society.
After few years, he founded the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences, and was also its first director from 1990 to 1996. From 1995 to 2005, he was Chancellor of the University of Leicester. In 1997, he also became an honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh, and remained so till his death in 2019.
Works and Recognition
Michael Atiyah is notable for his work on K-theory, on which he also published a book. Topological K-theory was discovered by Atiyah and Friedrich Hirzebruch. They were inspired by Alexander Grothendieck`s proof of the Grothendieck-Riemann Roch theorem, as well as Raoul Bott`s work on the periodicity theorem. Along with Alexander Grothendieck, and Friedrich Hirzeburch (Hirzebruch), Atiyah became known as one of the pioneers in the development of the K-theory.
In 1966, he received the Fields Medal, for his remarkable work in developing the K-theory, as well as the Atiyah-Singer theorem, and a generalized Lefschetz fixed-point theorem. He has received several other honors throughout his career, such as the Royal Medal of the Royal Society, King Faisal International Prize for Science, De Morgan Medal of the London Mathematical Society and the Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Medal of the Indian National Science Academy.
Michael Atiyah is also known for his work on the Atiyah-Singer index theorem, on which he collaborated with Isadore Singer. According to the theorem, for an elliptic differential operator on a compact manifold, the analytical index, is equal to the topological index. Throughout his career, many of his works also revolved around the gauge theory. A common theme that can be found in these works is the study of moduli spaces of solutions to certain non-linear partial differential equations.
Several of his works also study the connections that exist between quantum field theory, knots and the Donaldson theory.
Throughout his life, he was elected as foreign member of numerous universities, such as National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Irish Academy, the Indian National Science Academy and the Australian Academy of Science.
In 1983, he was also made a Knight Bachelor.
In 1992, he was made a member of the Order of Merit as well.
In 2011, he was also made a Grand Officier of the French Légion d'honneur.
Family & Personal Life
Michael Atiyah got married on 30th July 1955, to Lily Brown. The couple remained together till Lily`s death on 13 March 2018. They had three sons, who were named John, David and Robin.
Michael Atiyah passed away on 11 January 2019, at the age of 89.