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Mathematical physics

IOP Chief Executive Paul Hardaker responds to the death of Professor Sir Michael Atiyah

We are saddened to learn of the death of mathematician and former president of the Royal Society, Professor Sir Michael Atiyah.


Sir Michael is considered to be one of the most important mathematicians of the 20th century. During his career he made valuable contributions to a broad range of topics in mathematics, many of which have proved foundational to the development of theoretical physics. He was awarded the highest honour in mathematics, the Fields Medal in 1966.

Image of professor Michael

His ideas on the role of topology in quantum field theory have been influential for a generation of theoretical physicists and mathematicians, and he was among the first to realise the mathematical importance of the problems that arise in quantum field theory.

His ideas and influence continue in areas of current research such as topological field theory and string theory.

In 2008, the IOP awarded Sir Michael the President’s medal for his outstanding contributions to mathematics and theoretical physics.

Institute Chief Executive Professor Paul Hardaker commented: “There are few people like Michael who have made such fundamental contributions to the science community and our understanding of the world around us. His work inspired new thinking in quantum field theory that we are still benefiting from today and the legacy he has left us in maths and physics will be influencing our thinking for a very long time to come.”

Sir Michael died on Friday 11 January 2019, aged 89

Image ©the Royal Society