Sir Michael Atiyah, Abel Prize laureate, dies at 89

Atiyah was the recipient together with Isadore Singer of the Abel Prize in 2004, and he also received the Fields Medal, the American Philosophical Society’s Benjamin Franklin Medal, among many other honors. He was the former President of the Royal Society and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Atiyah was most recently an Honorary Professor in the School of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh. Sir Michael, working at Cambridge University before he retired, made outstanding contributions to geometry and topology.

- His legacy in mathematics and physics will last forever. His passing is a terrible loss, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family. Sir Michael attended ICM in Rio last year with his Abel lecture and inspired a new generation of mathematicians globally”, says president of The Norwegian Academy of Science and letters, Hans Petter Graver.

Sir Michael is best known for his co-development of a branch of mathematics called topological K-theory and the Atiyah-Singer index theorem.

Atiyah received the Abel Prize in 2004 together with Isadore Singer, “for their discovery and proof of the index theorem, bringing together topology, geometry and analysis, and their outstanding role in building new bridges between mathematics and theoretical physics."

Sir Michael Attiyah and Isadore Singer shared the Abel prize in 2004. Foto: Sir Michael Atiyah and Isadore Singer shared the Abel prize in 2004. 

As one of the world’s most revered mathematicians, Atiyah produced work  inspiring scholars across the globe, from his first major contribution, topological K-theory, to advances in quantum fieltheory.

Michael Francis Atiyah was born on April 22, 1929, in London to the former Jean Levens, a Scot, and Edward Atiyah, a Lebanese. Atiyah married Lily Brown, with whom he had three sons, John, David and Robin. Atiyah's eldest son John died in 2002. Lily Atiyah died in 2018.

In 2018, he gave an Abel Prize lecture at ICM (International Congress of Mathematicians) in Rio. The title of his lecture was "The Future of Mathematical Physics: new ideas in old bottles".

After the lecture, the ICM organizers wrote: “Michael Atiyah is a living math legend. At age 89, he shines bright with his keen mind and sharp sense of humor. Creating a magical atmosphere of wonder, he took hundreds of people on a journey through his mind, packed full of curiosity”.

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Record turnout for Atiyah’s Abel Lecture at ICM in Rio

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Sir Michael Atiyah gives Abel lecture at ICM in Rio

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The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
Drammensveien 78
N-0271 Oslo, Norway
Telephone: + 47 22 84 15 00
Fax: + 47 22 12 10 99
E-mail: abelprisen@dnva.no
Web editor: Anne-Marie Astad
Design and technical solutions: Ravn Webveveriet AS