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Road trip through America


Oppenheimer on Princeton
Michael Atiyah Mathematician
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Princeton, oddly enough, is a very, well as you know, it's a rather atypical American town. It's small, smaller than Cambridge and has some of the attractions of bits of Cambridge, and I like Princeton, very much. But I remember when I was there the director of the institute was Oppenheimer, and I remember when I arrived he used to go… and seeing you in his office and asking me how I was getting on, settling down. I enthused a lot about Princeton, saying, ‘Oh it's a marvellous place, all these nice trees’. He wasn't… he obviously, a bit more experienced than me, he wasn't quite so impressed, he thought it was a bit of, you know, an inferior copy of Oxford and Cambridge or something like that. He was a bit more critical about it, but it was a very nice place to [be]… but that was untypical of America really.

Eminent British mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah broke new ground in geometry and topology with his proof of the Atiyah-Singer Index Theorem in the 1960s. This proof led to new branches of mathematics being developed, including those needed to understand emerging theories like supergravity and string theory.

Listeners: Nigel Hitchin

Professor Nigel Hitchin, FRS, is the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, since 1994, and was appointed to the Savilian Professorship of Geometry in October 1997. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1991 and from 1994 until 1996 was President of the London Mathematical Society.

His research interests are in differential and algebraic geometry and its relationship with the equations of mathematical physics. He is particularly known for his work on instantons, magnetic monopoles, and integrable systems. In addition to numerous articles in academic journals, he has published "Monopoles, Minimal Surfaces and Algebraic Curves" (Presses de l'Universite de Montreal, 1987) and "The Geometry and Dynamics of Magnetic Monopoles" (Princeton University Press, 1988, with Michael Atiyah).

Tags: Princeton, Cambridge, Robert Oppenheimer

Duration: 49 seconds

Date story recorded: March 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008