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Dirac operator

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Difficulty in inviting people to Oxford
Michael Atiyah Mathematician
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Singer came more or less on his own bat. He had a sabbatical and he just wrote to me saying he was coming. At that stage I didn't know Singer as well as I did some of the other people, like Bott, and nor did I have the kind of resources to invite people anyway, you know. I remember when I went to Oxford the resources to invite people were extremely limited. I remember I got Serre to come over and give a seminar and I think I... I had great difficulty in extracting £5 out of the university or something, you know. It was extremely difficult. So there was no way I would have had money to invite Singer from America, but he came... he came on his own here, he had a sabbatical and he liked to come and stay in Oxford, and so, I got to know him really after… well after he came, but that was the contact.

Subsequently things improved and eventually I got Bott to come, as a Visiting Fellow to St Catherine's, and that was a great success. But in the early days it wasn't easy to invite visitors, but Americans frequently came on their own, had their resources and moved around. And that's why I spent time going elsewhere, and by going to sabbaticals elsewhere, to America every couple of years, going to conferences, going to Bonn.  That's where I made my contacts. The number who came to Oxford would have been in those days… early days, much more limited, yes.

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: Oxford, Saint Catherine's College, Raoul Bott

Duration: 1 minute, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: March 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008