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The Simons Center Remembers Sir Michael Atiyah

Sir Michael Atiyah at the Simons Center in 2011

Sir Michael Atiyah, celebrated mathematician and Retired and Honorary Professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, died at the age of 89 on Friday January 11, 2019. Recipient of the Fields Medal in 1966 and Abel Prize in 2004, he was best known for his co-development of a branch of mathematics called topological K-theory and the Atiyah-Singer index theorem. His groundbreaking work with Dr. Isadore Singer, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led to the flowering of string theory and gauge theory and has provided powerful tools for both mathematicians and theoretical physicists.

Dr. Atiyah visited the Simons Center for two months in the Fall of 2011. During that visit the Center arranged a conversation between Sir Michael, Nigel Hitchin, Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford University, Robion Kirby, Professor of Mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley, and John Morgan Director of the Simons Center. In this conversation Sir Michael responds to questions which lead him to reflect on his life in mathematics and to expound on his view of mathematics, and in particular his view of the relationship of mathematics and physics.

The conversation was taped in a studio on the campus of Stony Brook University and took place on November 7, 2011.

A collection of Sir Micahel Atiyah’s public talks at the Center can be viewed here: