Aleksandr Grothendieck


Alexander Grothendieck passed away in Saint Girons (Ariége) on November 13, 2014. We lost the mathematical dreamer of the twentieth century who has enlightened the roads to the mathematics of the future.

Grothendieck was born in Berlin on March 28, 1928. His father, Alexander Shapiro, was a Jew from Russia who was born in Novozybkov in 1899 and became a revolutionary, an anarchist, and a Makhnovist. The father miraculously escaped death during tsarism and under Bolsheviks, but was perished by Nazis in Auschwitz in 1942. As witnessed by Yuri Manin, Shurik (so Alexander was called in his family) kept his Russian language. Shurik's mother, whose surname became Shurik's since the farther had been pursued, was Hanka Grothendieck (1900–1957), a German and a distinguished left activist. She escaped with Shurik to France where Shurik's farther was interned from Spain where he had fought Francoists in Red Brigades. WWII spanned the years of ordeal that effected the whole life of the future genius.

Laurent Schwartz (1915–2002) was a supervisor of Grothendieck. His second supervisor was Jean Dieudonné (1906–2002) who later became an elder coworker, a friend, and even a pen of Grothendieck. Among the followers and students of Grothendieck we list Yuri Manin, Vladimir Voevodsky, William Lawvere, Pierre Deligne, Jiles Pisier and many other mathematicians of the first line.

The creative contributions and traits of personality of Grothendieck are exceptionally versatile. We list quite a few of the topics that await consideration:

It is customary to distinguish the main two periods of Grothendieck's mathematical research: from 1948 to 1956—the period of functional analysis and from 1956 to 1970—the period of algebraic geometry. This periodization brings about much injustice. Grothendieck remained a mathematician up to his terminal day, even after he had left IHÉS and returned to his alma mater in Montpellier. He had entered the history of science for ever as an unselfish and conscientious harbinger of mathematical dream and beauty:

Grothendieck bequeathed to descendants the mystery of his rebellious and restless personality. The motives of many of his acts will stay eternal challenges and puzzles. The man of utmost benevolence and openness, who donated to the others his own mathematical ideas and personal confessions, issued on January 3, 2010 a rather unusual, emotional, and muddled declaration in which he demanded to withdraw all his writings away from public access:

Grothendieck left this world. Therefore, the restrictions he had imposed are not effective any longer, and the intellectual heritage of the genius is open to humankind.

S. Kutateladze

November 19, 2014


1 Cp. Genesis 8:22 in La Bible Traduction Integrale Hebreu–Francais by Bible Society, Books & Bagels, 1993.

Siberian Electronic Mathematical Reports, 2014, Vol. 11, A3–A4
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© Kutateladze S. S. 2014