WASHINGTON: Alexander Grothendieck, the man who developed unifying concepts including number theory, category theory, functional analysis and topology and whose intellect thrilled the world of mathematics in 1950s and 1960s died November 13 at the age of 86 at a hospital in Saint-Girons, France.
Grothendieck emerged from a life of exile during World War II to become one of the most important mathematical thinkers of the 20th century. His contributions to mathematics were to great extent similar to those of Albert Einstein in physics. His nominal specialty was algebraic geometry, which combines elements of both mathematical disciplines.
He developed unifying concepts including number theory, category theory, functional analysis and topology. In 1966, Grothendieck was awarded the Fields Medal, considered the world’s highest honour in mathematics. Two of his major publications, “Elements of Algebraic Geometry” and “Fundamentals of Algebraic Geometry,” are so essential to mathematicians that they are known simply by their initials in French, EGA and FGA.
“He was one of the giants of mathematics, who transformed mathematics entirely with his work,”
As a student, Grothendieck once recalled, he was taught how to calculate the volume of a sphere and other geometric shapes, but he sought a deeper understanding: the definition of volume itself.
When he embarked on his career, he spent most of the time on developing new, simplified approaches to mathematical investigation. His theoretical frameworks started applying to such fields as computer programming, software development, satellite communications, classification systems and the study of biological data.