Alexander Grothendieck
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Alexander Grothendieck in Montreal, 1970 

Born  March 28, 1928(age 80) Berlin, Germany 

Residence  France 
Nationality  Stateless 
Field  Mathematician 
Academic advisor  Laurent Schwartz 
Notable students  Pierre Deligne, JeanLouis Verdier, Michel Raynaud 
Known for  algebraic geometry, homological algebra, and functional analysis 
Notable prizes  Fields Medal (1966), Crafoord Prize(1988, declined) 
Alexander Grothendieck (born March 28, 1928 in Berlin, Germany) is considered to be one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century. He is most famous for his revolutionary advances in algebraic geometry, but he has also made major contributions to algebraic topology, number theory, category theory, Galois theory, descent theory, commutative homological algebra and functional analysis. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1966, and was coawarded the Crafoord Prize with Pierre Deligne in 1988. He declined the latter prize on ethical grounds in an open letter to the media.
He is noted for his mastery of abstract approaches to mathematics, and his perfectionism in matters of formulation and presentation. In particular, he demonstrated the ability to derive concrete results using only very general methods.^{[1]}^{[2]}^{[3]} Relatively little of his work after 1960 was published by the conventional route of the learned journal, circulating initially in duplicated volumes of seminar notes; his influence was to a considerable extent personal, on French mathematics and the Zariski school at Harvard University. He is the subject of many stories and some misleading rumors concerning his work habits and politics, his confrontations with other mathematicians and the French authorities, his withdrawal from mathematics at age 42, his retirement, and his subsequent lengthy writings.
Contents 
[edit] Mathematical achievements
Homological methods and sheaf theory had already been introduced in algebraic geometry by JeanPierre Serre and others, after sheaves had been described by Jean Leray. Grothendieck took them to a higher level of abstraction and turned them into the key organising principle of his theory. He thereby changed the tools and the level of abstraction in algebraic geometry.
Amongst his insights, he shifted attention from the study of individual varieties to the relative point of view (pairs of varieties related by a morphism), allowing a broad generalization of many classical theorems. This he applied first to the Riemann–Roch theorem, around 1956, 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.
His foundational work on algebraic geometry is at a higher level of abstraction than all prior versions. He adapted the use of nonclosed generic points, which led to the theory of schemes. He also pioneered the systematic use of nilpotents. As 'functions' these can take only the value 0, but they carry infinitesimal information, in purely algebraic settings. His theory of schemes has become established as the best universal foundation for this major field, because of its great expressive power as well as technical depth. In that setting one can use birational geometry, techniques from number theory, Galois theory and commutative algebra, and close analogues of the methods of algebraic topology, all in an integrated way.
Its influence spilled over into many other branches of mathematics, for example the contemporary theory of Dmodules. (It also provoked adverse reactions, with many mathematicians seeking out more concrete areas and problems. Grothendieck is one of the few mathematicians who match the French concept of maître à penser; some go further and call him maîtrepenseur.)
[edit] EGA and SGA
The bulk of Grothendieck's published work is collected in the monumental, and yet incomplete, Éléments de géométrie algébrique (EGA) and Séminaire de géométrie algébrique (SGA). The collection Fondements de la Géometrie Algébrique (FGA), which gathers together talks given in the Séminaire Bourbaki, also contains important material.
Perhaps Grothendieck's deepest single accomplishment is the invention of the étale and ladic cohomology theories, which explain an observation of André Weil's that there is a deep connection between the topological characteristics of a variety and its diophantine (number theoretic) properties. For example, the number of solutions of an equation over a finite field reflects the topological nature of its solutions over the complex numbers. Weil realized that to prove such a connection one needed a new cohomology theory, but neither he nor any other expert saw how to do this until such a theory was found by Grothendieck.
This program culminated in the proofs of the Weil conjectures, the last of which was settled by Grothendieck's student Pierre Deligne in the early 1970s after Grothendieck had largely withdrawn from mathematics.
[edit] Major mathematical topics (from Récoltes et Semailles)
He wrote a retrospective assessment of his mathematical work (see the external link La Vision below). As his main mathematical achievements ("maîtrethèmes"), he chose this collection of 12 topics (his chronological order):
 Topological tensor products and nuclear spaces
 "Continuous" and "discrete" duality (derived categories and "six operations").
 Yoga of the Grothendieck–Riemann–Roch theorem (Ktheory, relation with intersection theory).
 Schemes.
 Topoi.
 Étale cohomology including ladic cohomology.
 Motives and the motivic Galois group (and Grothendieck categories)
 Crystals and crystalline cohomology, yoga of De Rham and Hodge coefficients.
 Topological algebra, infinitystacks, 'dérivateurs', cohomological formalism of toposes as an inspiration for a new homotopic algebra
 Tame topology.
 Yoga of anabelian geometry and Galois–Teichmüller theory.
 Schematic point of view, or "arithmetics" for regular polyhedra and regular configurations of all sorts.
He wrote that the central theme of the topics above is that of topos theory, while the first and last were of the least importance to him.
Here the term yoga denotes a kind of "metatheory" that can be used heuristically.^{[clarification needed]} The word yoke, meaning "linkage", is derived from the same IndoEuropean root.
[edit] Life
[edit] Family and early life
Alexander Grothendieck was born in Berlin to anarchist parents: a Russian father from an ultimately Hassidic family, Alexander Shapiro aka Tanaroff, and a mother from a German Protestant family, Johanna "Hanka" Grothendieck; both of his parents had broken away from their early backgrounds in their teens^{[4]}. At the time of his birth Grothendieck's mother was married to Johannes Raddatz, a German journalist, and his birthname was initially recorded as Alexander Raddatz. The marriage was dissolved in 1929 and Shapiro/Tanaroff acknowledged his paternity, but never married Hanka Grothendieck^{[5]}.
Grothendieck lived with his parents until 1933 in Berlin. At the end of that year, Shapiro moved to Paris, and Hanka followed him the next year. They left Grothendieck in the care of Wilhelm Heydorn, a Lutheran Pastor and teacher ^{[6]} in Hamburg where he went to school. During this time, his parents fought in the Spanish Civil War.
[edit] During WWII
In 1939 Grothendieck came to France and lived in various camps for displaced persons with his mother, first at the Camp de Rieucros, spending 1942–44 at Le ChambonsurLignon. His father was sent via Drancy to Auschwitz where he died in 1942.
[edit] Studies and contact with research mathematics
After the war, the young Grothendieck studied mathematics in France, initially at the University of Montpellier. He had decided to become a math teacher because he had been told that mathematical research had been completed early in the 20th century and there were no more open problems.^{[7]} However, his talent was noticed, and he was encouraged to go to Paris in 1948.
Initially, Grothendieck attended Henri Cartan's Seminar at École Normale Supérieure, but lacking the necessary background to follow the highpowered seminar, he moved to the University of Nancy where he wrote his dissertation under Laurent Schwartz in functional analysis, from 1950 to 1953. At this time he was a leading expert in the theory of topological vector spaces. By 1957, he set this subject aside in order to work in algebraic geometry and homological algebra.
[edit] The IHÉS years
Installed at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHÉS), Grothendieck attracted attention, first by his spectacular Grothendieck–Riemann–Roch theorem, and then by an intense and highly productive activity of seminars (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.
During this time he had officially as students Michel Demazure (who worked on SGA3, on group schemes), Luc Illusie (cotangent complex), Michel Raynaud, JeanLouis Verdier (cofounder of the derived category theory) and Pierre Deligne. Collaborators on the SGA projects also included Mike Artin (étale cohomology) and Nick Katz (monodromy theory and Lefschetz pencils). Jean Giraud worked out torsor theory extensions of nonabelian cohomology. Many others were involved.
[edit] The 'Golden Age'
Alexander Grothendieck's work during the `Golden Age' period at IHÉS established unifying themes in: Algebraic Geometry, Number Theory, Topology, Category Theory and Functional/Complex Analysis. Alexander Grothendieck introduced his own 'theory of schemes' in the 1960's which allowed certain of A. Weil's number theory conjectures to be solved. He originated the theory of topoi/toposes that are relevant not only to mathematical logic and category theory, but also to computer software/programming and institutional ontology classification and bioinformatics. He also provided an algebraic proof of the RiemannRoch theorem, algebraic definition of the fundamental group of a curve, the definition of the fundamental functor for a categorical Galois theory, the redefinition of Abelian categories (as for example in the case of AB5 categories that carry his namethe Grothendieck and local Grothendieck categories^{[8]}); then, he outlined the Dessins d' Enfants combinatorial topology theory and much more. His "Séminaire de géométrie algébrique" alone are several thousands of pages in (typewritten) printed length, or close to 500 Mb in electronic format. Later in the '80's in his Esquisse d'un Programme he outlined the 'anabelian' homology theory, what is called today in different fields by different names: NonAbelian Homology Theory (that has not yet been achieved as he planned to do), nonAbelian Algebraic Topology, Noncommutative geometry, NonAbelian Quantum Field theories, or ultimately, nonAbelian Categorical Ontology, fields that are still in need of future developments.
[edit] Politics and retreat from scientific community
Grothendieck's political views were radical and pacifist, but not communist (thus he strongly disapproved of the Soviet military expansionism as well). He gave lectures on category theory in the forests surrounding Hanoi while the city was being bombed, to protest against the Vietnam War (The Life and Work of Alexander Grothendieck, American Math. Monthly, vol. 113, no. 9, footnote 6). He retired from scientific life around 1970, after having discovered the partly military funding of IHÉS (see pp. xii and xiii of SGA1, Springer Lecture Notes 224). He returned to academia a few years later as a professor at the University of Montpellier, where he stayed until his retirement in 1988. His criticisms of the scientific community, and especially of several mathematics circles, are also contained in a letter, written in 1988, in which he states the reasons for his refusal of the Crafoord Prize.
While the issue of military funding was perhaps the most obvious explanation for Grothendieck's departure from IHÉS, those who knew him say that the causes of the rupture ran deeper. Pierre Cartier, a visiteur de longue durée 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 was a threevolume collection of research papers to mark his sixtieth birthday (falling in 1988), and published in 1990.^{[9]}
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 BuressurYvette "une cage dorée" [a golden 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 of 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. (In the 1970s Ruelle and the Dutch mathematician Floris Takens produced a new model for turbulence, and it was Ruelle who invented the concept of a strange attractor in a dynamical system.) Biology interested Grothendieck much more than physics, and he organized some seminars on biological topics.^{[10]} After leaving the IHÉS, Grothendieck tried but failed to get a position at the Collège de France. He then went to Université de Montpellier, where he became increasingly estranged from the mathematical community. Around this time, he founded a group called Survivre, which was dedicated to antimilitary and ecological issues. His mathematical career, for the most part, ended when he left the IHÉS. In 1984 he wrote a proposal to get a position through the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. The proposal, entitled Esquisse d'un Programme [Sketch of a Program] describes new ideas for studying the moduli space of complex curves. Although Grothendieck himself never published his work in this area, the proposal became the inspiration for work by other mathematicians and the source of the theory of dessins d’enfants [children’s drawings]. Esquisse d’un Programme was published in the twovolume proceedings Geometric Galois Actions (Cambridge University Press, 1997)."^{[11]}
[edit] Manuscripts written in the 1980s
While not publishing mathematical research in conventional ways during the 1980s, he produced several influential manuscripts with limited distribution, with both mathematical and biographical content. During that period he also released his work on Bertini type theorems contained in EGA 5, published by the Grothendieck Circle in 2004.
La Longue Marche à travers la théorie de Galois [The Long March Through Galois Theory] is an approximately 1600page handwritten manuscript produced by Grothendieck during the years 1980–1981, containing many of the ideas leading to the Esquisse d'un programme[1] (see below, and also a more detailed entry^{[12]}), and in particular studying the Teichmüller theory. (For an English translation of the tables of contents of these manuscripts see the Wikipedia separate entry on the Esquisse d'un programme.)
In 1983 he wrote a huge extended manuscript (about 600 pages) entitled Pursuing Stacks, stimulated by correspondence with Ronald Brown, (see also R.Brown and Tim Porter at University of Bangor in Wales), and starting with a letter addressed to Daniel Quillen. This letter and successive parts were distributed from Bangor (see External Links below): in an informal manner, as a kind of diary, 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 F. Morel and V. Voevodsky in the mid 1990s.
His Esquisse d'un programme[2] (1984) is a proposal for a position at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, which he held from 1984 to his retirement in 1988. Ideas from it have proved influential, and have been developed by others, in particular dessins d'enfants and a new field emerging as anabelian geometry. In La Clef des Songes he explains how the reality of dreams convinced him of God's existence^{[citation needed]}.
The 1000page autobiographical manuscript Récoltes et semailles (1986) is now available on the internet in the French original, and an English translation is underway (these parts of Récoltes et semailles have already been translated into Russian and published in Moscow). Some parts of Récoltes et semailles[3] [4] and the whole La Clef des Songes [5] have been translated into Spanish.
[edit] Disappearance
In 1991, Grothendieck left his home and disappeared. He is now said to live in southern France or Andorra and to entertain no visitors. Though he has been inactive in mathematics for many years, he remains one of the greatest and most influential mathematicians of modern times.
[edit] See also
 AxGrothendieck theorem
 Birkhoff–Grothendieck theorem
 Grothendieck's connectedness theorem
 Grothendieck connection
 Esquisse d'un Programme
 Grothendieck's Galois theory
 Grothendieck group
 Grothendieck category ^{[13]}
 Grothendieck inequality or Grothendieck constant
 Grothendieck–Katz pcurvature conjecture
 Grothendieck's relative point of view
 Grothendieck–Riemann–Roch theorem
 Grothendieck's Séminaire de géométrie algébrique
 Grothendieck space
 Grothendieck spectral sequence
 Grothendieck topology
 Grothendieck universe
 Tarski–Grothendieck set theory
 IHES
 IHES at Forty by Allyn Jackson
[edit] Notes
 ^ See, for example, (Deligne 1998).
 ^ Jackson, Allyn (2004), "Comme Appelé du Néant — As If Summoned from the Void: The Life of Alexandre Grothendieck I", Notices of the American Mathematical Society 51 (4): p. 1049, http://www.ams.org/notices/200409/feagrothendieckpart1.pdf
 ^ Mclarty, Colin. "The Rising Sea: Grothendieck on simplicity and generality I" (PDF). http://www.math.jussieu.fr/~leila/grothendieckcircle/mclarty1.pdf. Retrieved on 20080113.
 ^ Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
 ^ Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
 ^ Allyn Jackson, The Life of Alexander Grothendieck, p. 1040
 ^ See Jackson (2004:1). The remark is from the beginning of Récoltes et Semailles (page P4, in the introductory section Prélude en quatre Mouvements)
 ^ http://planetmath.org/encyclopedia/GrothendieckCategory.html
 ^ The editors were Pierre Cartier, Luc Illusie, Nick Katz, Gérard Laumon, Yuri Manin, and Ken Ribet. A second edition has been printed (2007) by Birkhauser.
 ^ http://www.ams.org/notices/199903/iheschanges.pdf
 ^ http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Hlf1j2XmXkcC&dq=Geometric+Galois+Actions&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=q9iN4QMkYj&sig=fAsvVlPOhN9K9LfjGFJC5zm_IA4&hl=en&ei=KW3ScSkHYHIMuDukOEK&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result
 ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esquisse_d%27un_Programme
 ^ http://planetphysics.org/encyclopedia/GrothendieckCategory.html
[edit] References
 Cartier, Pierre (1998), "La Folle Journée, de Grothendieck à Connes et Kontsevich — Évolution des Notions d'Espace et de Symétrie", Les Relations entre les Mathématiques et la Physique Théorique — Festschrift for the 40th anniversary of the IHÉS, Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, pp. 11–19
 Cartier, Pierre (2001), "A mad day's work: from Grothendieck to Connes and Kontsevich The evolution of concepts of space and symmetry", Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 38 (4): 389–408, http://www.ams.org/bull/20013804/S0273097901009132/S0273097901009132.pdf. An English translation of Cartier (1998)
 Deligne, Pierre (1998), "Quelques idées maîtresses de l'œuvre de A. Grothendieck", Matériaux pour l'histoire des mathématiques au XXe siècle – Actes du colloque à la mémoire de Jean Dieudonné (Nice 1996), Société Mathématique de France, pp. 11–19
 Jackson, Allyn (2004), "Comme Appelé du Néant — As If Summoned from the Void: The Life of Alexandre Grothendieck I", Notices of the American Mathematical Society 51 (4): 1038–1056, http://www.ams.org/notices/200409/feagrothendieckpart1.pdf
 Jackson, Allyn (2004), "Comme Appelé du Néant — As If Summoned from the Void: The Life of Alexandre Grothendieck II", Notices of the American Mathematical Society 51 (10): 1196–1212, http://www.ams.org/notices/200410/feagrothendieckpart2.pdf
 Rehmeyer, Julie (May 9, 2008), "Sensitivity to the Harmony of Things", Science News, http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/31898/title/Sensitivity_to_the_harmony_of_things
 Scharlau, Winfred, Wer ist Alexander Grothendieck?: Anarchie,Mathematik, Spiritualität, http://www.scharlauonline.de/ag_1.html Threevolume biography.
 Scharlau, Winifred (September 2008), written at Oberwolfach, Germany, "Who is Alexander Grothendieck", Notices of the American Mathematical Society (Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society) 55 (8): 930–941, ISSN 10889477, OCLC 34550461, http://www.ams.org/notices/200808/tx080800930p.pdf, retrieved on 20080902
[edit] External links
 O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Alexander Grothendieck", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive
 Alexander Grothendieck at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
 Grothendieck Circle, collection of mathematical and biographical information, photos, links to his writings
 Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques
 The origins of `Pursuing Stacks' This is an account of how `Pursuing Stacks' was written in response to a correspondence in English with Ronnie Brown and Tim Porter at Bangor, which continued until 1991.
 Récoltes et Semailles in French.
 Spanish translation of "Récoltes et Semailles" et "Le Clef des Songes" and other Grothendieck's texts
 short bio from Notices of the American Mathematical Society

Persondata  

NAME  Grothendieck, Alexander 
ALTERNATIVE NAMES  
SHORT DESCRIPTION  Mathematician 
DATE OF BIRTH  March 28, 1928(age 80) 
PLACE OF BIRTH  Berlin, Germany 
DATE OF DEATH  , 
PLACE OF DEATH 