Historical records matching Alexander Grothendieck
About Alexander Grothendieck
Alexander Grothendieck, who has died aged 86, was considered the greatest pure mathematician of the second half of the 20th century, his name uttered with the same reverence among mathematicians as that of Einstein among physicists. Yet in the 1970s he effectively abandoned his brilliant academic career and, in 1991, disappeared altogether; he was later reported as “last heard of raging about the devil somewhere in the Pyrenees”.
A mathematician of staggering accomplishment (one reference work described him as “the mathematician whose work was to lead to a unification of geometry, number theory, topology and complex analysis”), Grothendieck’s ubiquitous presence in almost all branches of pure mathematics between 1955 and 1970 revolutionised the subject, in recognition of which he was awarded the Fields Medal (the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize) in 1966.
His extraordinary creativity expressed itself in the form of thousands of pages of mathematical literature, notably in the monumental Eléments de Géométrie Algébrique and Séminaire de Géométrie Algébrique – although his achievement was matched only by the impossibility of explaining it to anyone without at least a degree in Pure Mathematics. (Grothendieck’s most important single accomplishment, for example, was said to be “the invention of the étale and l-adic cohomology theories”.)
... — obituary in The Telegraph