Photo Caption: M Atiyah 29 Mar 69
“The Atiyah-Singer index theorem was the toughest hurdle for me, but, somehow, we conquered it too. (To be sure, after it appeared in print, Singer told me that it didn’t come out quite right—the relation with the Riemann-Roch theorem was unclear or perhaps even misstated—but there it was, and I feel sure that my fellow ignoramuses and I learned something worth knowing that we hadn’t known before.)”–Paul R. Halmos, I Want to Be a Mathematician
Michael Francis Atiyah contributed to a wide range of topics in mathematics centering on the interaction between geometry and analysis. His work showed how the study of vector bundles on spaces could be regarded as the study of cohomology theory, called K-theory. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1966.
The ideas which led to Atiyah being awarded a Fields Medal were later seen to be relevant to gauge theories of elementary particles.
The theories of superspace and supergravity and the string theory of fundamental particles, which involves the theory of Riemann surfaces in novel and unexpected ways, were all areas of theoretical physics which developed using the ideas which Atiyah was introducing.
In addition to the Fields Medal, Atiyah received many honors during his career including the Feltrinelli Prize from the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in 1981, the King Faisal International Prize for Science in 1987, the Benjamin Franklin Medal, and the Nehru Medal. In 2004, he and Isadore Singer were awarded the Neils Abel prize of £480 000 for their work on the Atiyah-Singer Index Theorem.