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Difficulty in inviting people to Oxford


Lack of Collaborators at Oxford
Michael Atiyah Mathematician
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Henry Whitehead had died, of course, but his school was still there. There was still the regular topology seminar that was held. Ioan James was the Reader in Topology and so I saw a fair amount of him. And there were other younger people and there were research students. Graham Higman was the Professor of Algebra – I got on quite well with him. I don't think there was anybody else who… it wasn’t… there was nobody else really worked very specially in my area, I would say. The topologists were the nearest, there was nobody doing algebraic geometry. I got… made some contact with some of the analysts and the pure physics, but I think my own mathematical contacts were outside Oxford rather than inside Oxford. I mean, in the world at large I had many more contacts than I had in Oxford, except as time developed we had our seminar, we had our research students… I got research students and younger people came along, but originally I was on my own.

So actually looking back in retrospect, you know, you move around, you'd think you'd want to go to a place where the subject is well represented, it might have seemed to be a rash move. But there weren't so many posts in those days and you know, the idea of being too choosy about whether you went because who was working there, you know, wasn't really relevant I think.

Eminent British mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah (1929-2019) 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: Oxford, Henry Whitehead

Duration: 1 minute, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: March 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008