From: Mathematical Institute of Oxford University
We are very sorry to hear of the death of Michael Atiyah. Michael was a giant of mathematics. He held many positions including Savilian Professor of Geometry here in Oxford, President of the Royal Society, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, the founding Directorship of the Isaac Newton Institute and Chancellor of the University of Leicester. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1966 and the Abel Prize in 2004.
Michael’s work spanned many fields. Together with Hirzebruch, he laid the foundations for topological K-theory, an important tool in algebraic topology which describes ways in which spaces can be twisted. His Atiyah–Singer index theorem, proved with Singer in 1963, not only vastly generalized classical results from the 19th century such as the Riemann-Roch theorem and the Gauss-Bonnet theorem, the work of his teacher Hodge in the 1930s on harmonic integrals, and also Hirzebruch’s work, but also provided an entirely new bridge between analysis and topology which could also act as a mechanism for giving structure to identities in fields as far apart as number theory and group representations. His more recent work was inspired by theoretical physics, in particular instantons and monopoles, which are responsible for some subtle corrections in quantum field theory.
Michael gave his time generously in the promotion of his subject. In May 2018 he gave a very entertaining Public Lecturehere in Oxford. His title? ‘Numbers are serious but they are also fun.’