German-born French mathematician who became the leading figure in the creation of ramanujan mathematician biography and his children algebraic geometry. Born in Germany, Grothendieck was raised and lived primarily in France. For much of his working life, however, he was, in effect, stateless.
Grothendieck began his productive and public career as a mathematician in 1949. 1970, when, driven by personal and political convictions, he left following a dispute over military funding. Grothendieck was born in Berlin to anarchist parents. Grothendieck lived with his parents in Berlin until the end of 1933, when his father moved to Paris to evade Nazism, followed soon thereafter by his mother. In May 1939, Grothendieck was put on a train in Hamburg for France. Shortly afterwards his father was interned in Le Vernet.
He and his mother were then interned in various camps from 1940 to 1942 as “undesirable dangerous foreigners”. After the war, the young Grothendieck studied mathematics in France, initially at the University of Montpellier where he did not initially perform well, failing such classes as astronomy. Working on his own, he rediscovered the Lebesgue measure. Initially, Grothendieck attended Henri Cartan’s Seminar at École Normale Supérieure, but he lacked the necessary background to follow the high-powered seminar. Alexander Grothendieck’s work during the “Golden Age” period at the IHÉS established several unifying themes in algebraic geometry, number theory, topology, category theory and complex analysis. Grothendieck’s political views were radical and pacifist, and he strongly opposed both United States intervention in Vietnam and Soviet military expansionism.
While the issue of military funding was perhaps the most obvious explanation for Grothendieck’s departure from the IHÉS, those who knew him say that the causes of the rupture ran deeper. In it, Cartier notes that as the son of an antimilitary anarchist and one who grew up among the disenfranchised, Grothendieck always had a deep compassion for the poor and the downtrodden. In 1970, Grothendieck, with two other mathematicians, Claude Chevalley and Pierre Samuel, created a political group called Survivre—the name later changed to Survivre et vivre. The group published a bulletin and was dedicated to antimilitary and ecological issues, and also developed strong criticism of the indiscriminate use of science and technology. After leaving the IHÉS, Grothendieck became a temporary professor at Collège de France for two years. While not publishing mathematical research in conventional ways during the 1980s, he produced several influential manuscripts with limited distribution, with both mathematical and biographical content.
In 1983, stimulated by correspondence with Ronald Brown and Tim Porter at Bangor University, Grothendieck wrote a 600-page manuscript titled Pursuing Stacks, starting with a letter addressed to Daniel Quillen. Grothendieck describes his approach to mathematics and his experiences in the mathematical community, a community that initially accepted him in an open and welcoming manner but which he progressively perceived to be governed by competition and status. He complains about what he saw as the “burial” of his work and betrayal by his former students and colleagues after he had left the community. In 1988 Grothendieck declined the Crafoord Prize with an open letter to the media. He wrote that established mathematicians like himself had no need for additional financial support and criticized what he saw as the declining ethics of the scientific community, characterized by outright scientific theft that, according to him, had become commonplace and tolerated. La Clef des Songes, a 315-page manuscript written in 1987, is Grothendieck’s account of how his consideration of the source of dreams led him to conclude that God exists. Over 20,000 pages of Grothendieck’s mathematical and other writings, held at the University of Montpellier, remain unpublished.