Born on March 28, 1928, in Berlin, Alexandre Grothendieck is one of the great mathematicians to be known from the 20th century. His father’s name was Alexander Schapiro while mother was Johanna Grothendieck. During World War 2, Grothendieck along with his mother lived in different camps in France as refugees. He attended different refugee schools and even tried to escape once. In one of the camps, his mother got afflicted with tuberculosis and later died due to it.
Local Protestants had established a school that was attended by many refugee children. Grothendieck also got a chance to be amongst them in 1938. While studying there, he developed a passion for mathematics and hence, followed it even after school.
After World War 2, he attended the University of Montpellier in France and later École Normale Supérieure in Paris for higher study in mathematics. There he met great mathematicians of that era. Then, he got enrolled in University of Nancy in France and completed his doctorate in 1953. There, he got to learn a lot from his teacher Jean Dieudonne. After doing some work in Algebraic Geometry, Grothendieck joined the Institut des Etudes (IHES) in 1958 and worked there for twelve years. He dedicatedly worked with various mathematicians and brought forward many new concepts in algebraic geometry. Commutative algebra, homological algebra, sheaf theory, category theory, and theory of schemes etc. were some of the topics he extensively worked on and used them for various applications and in solving difficult problems. This allowed future scientists and mathematicians to come up with new researches by applying his theories. For instance, Gerd Faltings worked on the Mordell conjecture and Andrew Wiles worked on the Fermat’s last theorem. In 1966, he also received the Fields Medal at the International Congress of Mathematicians which was held in Moscow.
Alexandre Grothendieck also published many articles and books during his life as a mathematician, some of which have been listed below.
- Produits tensoriels topologiques et espaces nucléaires or Topological Tensor Products and Nuclear Spaces in 1955; a combined effort of Grothendieck and Jean Dieudonne
- Éléments de géométrie algébrique or Elementary Algebraic Geometry in 1960
- Espaces vectoriels topologiques or Topological Vector Spaces in 1973.
- The long March through Galois Theory in 1980; a manuscript
- Pursuing Stacks in 1983; explained how algebraic homotopy theory and algebraic geometry linked with each other.
- E Squisse d’un programme in 1984
It was in 1970, after Grothendieck’s resignation from IHES that he started to gradually move away from mathematics. He got appointed at some other universities and research centers for short times to work in the same field, but he started taking interest in politics and other activities greater than mathematical work. In 1985, he compiled a book on non-mathematical topics. Finally, in 1988, he retired from being a mathematician, leaving behind all of his achievements and co-workers. On Grothendieck 60th birthday in 1990, a Festschrift was published for him that compiled many of his articles.
Grothendieck died on November 13, 2014 in France. Although he abruptly moved away from his passion and fame, he is still remembered and honored for his contributions in mathematics, especially algebraic geometry.