Alexander Grothendieck = Obi-Wan

By Xah Lee. Date:
Alexander Grothendieck
Alexander Grothendieck. (photo from

Alexander Grothendieck (1928 to 2014). Perhaps the greatest mathematician of modern algebraic geometry. A very weird guy. Here's Wikipedia Alexander Grothendieck introduction:

Alexander Grothendieck (German: [ˈɡroːtn̩diːk]; French: [ɡʁɔtɛndik]; born 28 March 1928) is a French[1][2][3] mathematician, born in Germany, raised and living primarily in France, and who spent much of his working life stateless, who is the central figure behind the creation of the modern theory of algebraic geometry. His research program vastly extended the scope of the field, incorporating major elements of commutative algebra, homological algebra, sheaf theory, and category theory into its foundations. This new perspective led to revolutionary advances across many areas of pure mathematics.

Here's a introduction from (local copy Alexander_Grothendieck_cartier.pdf)

It is superfluous to introduce Alexander Grothendieck to mathematicians: he is recognized as one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century. For other audiences, however, it is important to explain that Grothendieck is much more than his rather sulphurous reputation, that of a man in a state of rupture, committing what one could call the suicide of his work, or at any rate consciously destroying the scientific school that he had created. What I want to discuss here are the interactions between his scientific work and his extraordinary personality. Grothendieck's story is not absolutely unique in the history of science; one may think of Ludwig Boltzmann for example. But there are essential differences: Boltzmann's work was rejected by the scientific community of his time and remained unrecognized until after his death, whereas Grothendieck's scientific work was immediately and enthusiastically accepted in spite of its innovative nature, and developed and continued by top-notch collaborators. The path traveled by Grothendieck appears different to me: a childhood devastated by the effect of Nazi crimes, an absent father who soon perished in the torments of the time, a mother who held her son in thrall and permanently affected his relationship with other women; all of this compensated for by an unlimited investment in mathematical abstraction, until psychosis could no longer be held off and came to drown him in the anguish of death to his own and the world's.

for other introduction, see:

Sad to know, Alexander Grothendieck died few days ago.