Sir Michael Atiyah (1929 – 2019)

St Catherine’s College is saddened to share the news that Sir Michael Atiyah, Honorary Fellow, passed away on 11th January, aged 89. Sir Michael was a mathematician who made outstanding contributions to geometry and topology, and was best known for his co-development of topological K-theory and the Atiyah–Singer index theorem. As well as advancing pure mathematics, Sir Michael’s work has been fruitfully applied and extended to both pillars of theoretical physics — quantum theory and general relativity.

During his career, Sir Michael received two of the highest honours in mathematics: the Fields Medal, in 1996, and the Abel Prize, in 2004. Several colleagues of his have also received Fields Medals for discoveries building on his own work. He was knighted in 1983 and made a member of the Order of Merit in 1992, as well as being made a Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honour in 2011.

Sir Michael was elected to an Honorary Fellowship at St Catherine’s College in 1991, having been a Professorial Fellow in 1961-63. He was also an Honorary Professor in the School of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, a former Master of Trinity College, Cambridge (1990-97), and previously served as President of the Royal Society (1990-95) and President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2005-08).