The New York Times, “Alexander Grothendieck, Math Enigma, Dies at 86,” November 14, 2014

Alexander Grothendieck, Math Enigma, Dies at 86
Bruce Weber and Julie Rehmeyer, The New York Times, November 14, 2014

Alexander Grothendieck, whose gift for deep abstraction excavated new ground in the field known as algebraic geometry and supplied a theoretical foundation for the solving of some of the most vexing conundrums of modern mathematics, died on Thursday in Ariège, in the French Pyrenees. He was 86.

A vexing character himself, Mr. Grothendieck (pronounced GROAT-en-deek) turned away from mathematics at the height of his powers in the early 1970s and had lived in seclusion since the early 1990s. His death was widely reported in France, where the newspaper Le Monde described him as “the greatest mathematician of the 20th century.” In a statement on Friday, President François Hollande praised him as “one of our greatest mathematicians” and “an out-of-the-ordinary personality in the philosophy of life.”

[…]

His background and early life were tangled and harrowing. His father, whose name is usually reported as Alexander Schapiro, was a Jewish anarchist who fought against the Russian czarist government. He was captured by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution and eventually escaped to Western Europe. Along the way he lost an arm.

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