|Birth Day:||March 28, 1928|
|Death Date:||Nov 13, 2014 (age 86)|
As per our current Database, Alexander Grothendieck died on Nov 13, 2014 (age 86).
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He studied mathematics at the University of Montpellier, but performed better when he studied independently.
Grothendieck was born in Weimar Germany. In 1938, aged ten, he moved to France as a refugee. Records of his nationality were destroyed in the fall of Germany in 1945 and he did not apply for French citizenship after the war. He thus became a stateless person for at least the majority of his working life, traveling on a Nansen passport. Part of this reluctance to hold French nationality is attributed to not wishing to serve in the French military, particularly due to the Algerian War (1954–62). He eventually applied for French citizenship in the early 1980s, well past the age that exempted him from military service.
In May 1939, Grothendieck was put on a train in Hamburg for France. Shortly afterwards his father was interned in Le Vernet. He and his mother were then interned in various camps from 1940 to 1942 as "undesirable dangerous foreigners". The first was the Rieucros Camp, where his mother contracted the tuberculosis which eventually caused her death and where Alexander managed to attend the local school, at Mende. Once Alexander managed to escape from the camp, intending to assassinate Hitler. Later, his mother Hanka was transferred to the Gurs internment camp for the remainder of World War II. Alexander was permitted to live, separated from his mother, in the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, sheltered and hidden in local boarding houses or pensions, though he occasionally had to seek refuge in the woods during Nazis raids, surviving at times without food or water for several days. His father was arrested under the Vichy anti-Jewish legislation, and sent to the Drancy, and then handed over by the French Vichy government to the Germans to be sent to be murdered at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942. In Chambon, Grothendieck attended the Collège Cévenol (now known as the Le Collège-Lycée Cévenol International), a unique secondary school founded in 1938 by local Protestant pacifists and anti-war activists. Many of the refugee children hidden in Chambon attended Cévenol, and it was at this school that Grothendieck apparently first became fascinated with mathematics.
After the war, the young Grothendieck studied mathematics in France, initially at the University of Montpellier where he did not initially perform well, failing such classes as astronomy. Working on his own, he rediscovered the Lebesgue measure. After three years of increasingly independent studies there, he went to continue his studies in Paris in 1948.
His first works on topological vector spaces in 1953 have been successfully applied to physics and computer science, culminating in a relation between Grothendieck inequality and the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox in quantum physics.
In 1956, he applied the same thinking to the Riemann–Roch theorem, which had already recently been generalized to any dimension by Hirzebruch. The Grothendieck–Riemann–Roch theorem was announced by Grothendieck at the initial Mathematische Arbeitstagung in Bonn, in 1957. It appeared in print in a paper written by Armand Borel with Serre. This result was his first work in algebraic geometry. He went on to plan and execute a programme for rebuilding the foundations of algebraic geometry, which were then in a state of flux and under discussion in Claude Chevalley's seminar; he outlined his programme in his talk at the 1958 International Congress of Mathematicians.
Grothendieck was very close to his mother to whom he dedicated his dissertation. She died in 1957 from the tuberculosis that she contracted in camps for displaced persons. He had five children: a son with his landlady during his time in Nancy, three children, Johanna (1959), Alexander (1961) and Mathieu (1965) with his wife Mireille Dufour, and one child with Justine Skalba, with whom he lived in a commune in the early 1970s.
In 1958, Grothendieck was installed at the Institut des hautes études scientifiques (IHÉS), a new privately funded research institute that, in effect, had been created for Jean Dieudonné and Grothendieck. Grothendieck attracted attention by an intense and highly productive activity of seminars there (de facto working groups drafting into foundational work some of the ablest French and other mathematicians of the younger generation). Grothendieck himself practically ceased publication of papers through the conventional, learned journal route. He was, however, able to play a dominant role in mathematics for around a decade, gathering a strong school.
In it, Cartier notes that as the son of an antimilitary anarchist and one who grew up among the disenfranchised, Grothendieck always had a deep compassion for the poor and the downtrodden. As Cartier puts it, Grothendieck came to find Bures-sur-Yvette "une cage dorée" ("a gilded cage"). While Grothendieck was at the IHÉS, opposition to the Vietnam War was heating up, and Cartier suggests that this also reinforced Grothendieck's distaste at having become a mandarin of the scientific world. In addition, after several years at the IHÉS, Grothendieck seemed to cast about for new intellectual interests. By the late 1960s, he had started to become interested in scientific areas outside mathematics. David Ruelle, a physicist who joined the IHÉS faculty in 1964, said that Grothendieck came to talk to him a few times about physics. Biology interested Grothendieck much more than physics, and he organized some seminars on biological topics.
In 1970, Grothendieck, with two other mathematicians, Claude Chevalley and Pierre Samuel, created a political group called Survivre—the name later changed to Survivre et vivre. The group published a bulletin and was dedicated to antimilitary and ecological issues, and also developed strong criticism of the indiscriminate use of science and technology. Grothendieck devoted the next three years to this group and served as the main editor of its bulletin.
Produced during 1980 and 1981, La Longue Marche à travers la théorie de Galois (The Long March Through Galois Theory) is a 1600-page handwritten manuscript containing many of the ideas that led to the Esquisse d'un programme. It also includes a study of Teichmüller theory.
In 1983, stimulated by correspondence with Ronald Brown and Tim Porter at Bangor University, Grothendieck wrote a 600-page manuscript titled Pursuing Stacks, starting with a letter addressed to Daniel Quillen. This letter and successive parts were distributed from Bangor (see External links below). Within these, in an informal, diary-like manner, Grothendieck explained and developed his ideas on the relationship between algebraic homotopy theory and algebraic geometry and prospects for a noncommutative theory of stacks. The manuscript, which is being edited for publication by G. Maltsiniotis, later led to another of his monumental works, Les Dérivateurs. Written in 1991, this latter opus of about 2000 pages further developed the homotopical ideas begun in Pursuing Stacks. Much of this work anticipated the subsequent development of the motivic homotopy theory of Fabien Morel and Vladimir Voevodsky in the mid-1990s.
In 1984, Grothendieck wrote the proposal Esquisse d'un Programme ("Sketch of a Programme") for a position at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). It describes new ideas for studying the moduli space of complex curves. Although Grothendieck himself never published his work in this area, the proposal inspired other mathematicians' work by becoming the source of dessin d'enfant theory and Anabelian geometry. It was later published in the two-volume Geometric Galois Actions (Cambridge University Press, 1997).
La Clef des Songes, a 315-page manuscript written in 1987, is Grothendieck's account of how his consideration of the source of dreams led him to conclude that God exists. As part of the notes to this manuscript, Grothendieck described the life and work of 18 "mutants", people whom he admired as visionaries far ahead of their time and heralding a new age. The only mathematician on his list was Bernhard Riemann. Influenced by the Catholic mystic Marthe Robin who was claimed to survive on the Holy Eucharist alone, Grothendieck almost starved himself to death in 1988. His growing preoccupation with spiritual matters was also evident in a letter titled Lettre de la Bonne Nouvelle sent to 250 friends in January 1990. In it, he described his encounters with a deity and announced that a "New Age" would commence on 14 October 1996.
Although Grothendieck continued with mathematical enquiries his standard mathematical career, for the most part, ended when he left the IHÉS. After leaving the IHÉS Grothendieck became a temporary professor at Collège de France for two years. He then became a professor at the University of Montpellier, where he became increasingly estranged from the mathematical community. He formally retired in 1988, a few years after having accepted a research position at the CNRS.
In 1988 Grothendieck declined the Crafoord Prize with an open letter to the media. He wrote that established mathematicians like himself had no need for additional financial support and criticized what he saw as the declining ethics of the scientific community, characterized by outright scientific theft that, according to him, had become commonplace and tolerated. The letter also expressed his belief that totally unforeseen events before the end of the century would lead to an unprecedented collapse of civilization. Grothendieck added however that his views are "in no way meant as a criticism of the Royal Academy's aims in the administration of its funds" and added "I regret the inconvenience that my refusal to accept the Crafoord prize may have caused you and the Royal Academy."
While the issue of military funding was perhaps the most obvious explanation for Grothendieck's departure from the IHÉS, those who knew him say that the causes of the rupture ran deeper. Pierre Cartier, a visiteur de longue durée ("long-term guest") at the IHÉS, wrote a piece about Grothendieck for a special volume published on the occasion of the IHÉS's fortieth anniversary. The Grothendieck Festschrift, published in 1990, was a three-volume collection of research papers to mark his sixtieth birthday in 1988.
In 1991, Grothendieck moved to a new address which he did not provide to his previous contacts in the mathematical community. Very few people visited him afterward. Local villagers helped sustain him with a more varied diet after he tried to live on a staple of dandelion soup. At some point, Leila Schneps and Pierre Lochak located him, then carried on a brief correspondence. Thus they became among "the last members of the mathematical establishment to come into contact with him". After his death, it was revealed that he lived alone in a house in Lasserre, Ariège, a small village at the foot of the Pyrenees.
In January 2010, Grothendieck wrote the letter "Déclaration d'intention de non-publication" to Luc Illusie, claiming that all materials published in his absence have been published without his permission. He asks that none of his work be reproduced in whole or in part and that copies of this work be removed from libraries. A website devoted to his work was called "an abomination." This order may have been reversed later in 2010.
On 13 November 2014, aged 86, Grothendieck died in the hospital of Saint-Girons, Ariège.
Currently, Alexander Grothendieck is 93 years, 7 months and 30 days old. Alexander Grothendieck will celebrate 94th birthday on a Monday 28th of March 2022.
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