Sir Michael Atiyah, formerly a professor at both Oxford and Cambridge, is one of the foremost mathematicians of the 20th century, and continues to be an important force in the 21st. In the 1960s Atiyah, with Isaac Singer of MIT, proved powerful and far-reaching "index theorems" making profound connections between geometry, topology and algebra relating to the physics of quantum operators in quantum field theory. He has also developed a branch of algebraic geometry called K theory. These advanced mathematical methods, as well as many others he has developed or inspired, have had an immeasurable influence on modern theoretical physics. Atiyah was educated in Cairo and Manchester before entering Trinity College, Cambridge. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1962 and awarded the Fields Medal in 1966.

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