Michael Atiyah received both his BA and
Ph. D. (1955) from Trinity College, Cambridge, England. He held postdoctoral
appointments at Cambridge and the Institute for Advanced Study. He arrived in Oxford in
1961 as a Reader and then from 1963 to 1969 held the Savilian Chair of Geometry. He spent
three years as professor at the Institute for Advanced Study before returning to Oxford as
the Royal Society Research Professor. In 1990 he became Master of Trinity College and the
first Director of the Newton Institute for Mathematical Studies in Cambridge, retiring
from these positions in 1997 and 1996, respectively. He is currently an Honorary Professor
at the University of Edinburgh.
Atiyah has made many outstanding and
fundamental mathematical contributions, especially in areas involving interactions between
geometry, topology and analysis. In collaboration with Hirzebruch, he pioneered the
development of K-theory, which is now crucial to the solution of many important
mathematical problems. His celebrated "index theorem" with Singer led to new
connections in differential geometry, topology and analysis. It has become an important
tool in theoretical physics. Many of the great results in 4-manifold geometry rely on
mathematical theories in which he made foundational contributions. He has been very
influential in bringing the ideas of theoretical physicists to the attention of
mathematicians and vice versa.
For these and other contributions he received numerous awards including the Fields
Medal (1966), Royal Medal (1968), De Morgan Medal (1980), King Faisal Prize (1987), and
the Copley Medal (1988). He was Knighted in 1983 and made member of the Order of Merit in
1992. He has been elected to the national academies of at least 10 nations and received
honorary degrees from more than 25 universities.
Professor Atiyah served as President of the London Mathematical Society (1974-1976) and
President of the Royal Society (1990-1995). Since 1997 he has been President of the
Pugwash Conferences, an international organization dedicated to "reducing the danger
of armed conflict and seeking cooperative solutions for global problems."
The Leonidas Alaoglu Memorial
Lecture was established by friends and family of the late Leonidas Alaoglu in recognition
of his great talents, distinguished contributions to mathematics, and long friendship with
Caltech. The Institute is privileged to honor his memory
with a lecture each year by an outstanding mathematician.