Person: Bott, Raoul
Raoul Bott was a Hungarian-born mathematician who made fundamental contributions to topology and differential geometry.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Bott's step parents were under no illusions about where things were heading during 1938 and they sent the fifteen year old boy to a boarding school in England where he might be safer.
- In the autumn of 1941 Bott entered McGill University in Montreal where he took what for him was a natural course.
- After four months Bott left the army and signed up for a one year Master's course at McGill University, still on electrical engineering but by now he was moving in interest towards mathematics.
- Bott did not fancy taking three more years to qualify in mathematics before starting a Master's degree in mathematics which is what he would have had to have done had he followed his initial choice to stay at McGill.
- This seemed a good way to proceed, but the regulations for Bott to take a Master's degree in mathematics at Carnegie Tech again required him to have a first degree in mathematics.
- Richard Duffin became Bott's supervisor and the first problem they solved was one which Bott suggested himself.
- Solving this problem led to a joint Bott-Duffin paper containing what is now known as the Bott-Duffin theorem.
- Bott was awarded a PhD for his thesis Electrical Network Theory in 1947 and he remained at Carnegie Tech undertaking research until 1949.
- Bott's career was greatly influenced by Weyl who was impressed with the results that Bott was producing and invited him to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1949.
- Bott spent two years at Princeton where he was greatly influenced by Weyl, Steenrod, Specker, Reidemeister, and Morse.
- Bott also attended lectures by Kodaira and de Rham on harmonic forms.
- From 1951 to 1959 Bott was on the faculty of the University of Michigan although during that time he did spend 1955-57 back at the Institute for Advanced Study.
- It was at Michigan that Bott supervised his first doctoral student, Stephen Smale.
- Few people have supervised the doctoral studies of two people who went on to be awarded a Fields Medal but Bott has that distinction.
- Let me mention a personal memory of Bott from the late 1960s.
- Bott leapt to his feet insisting firmly "I'll fix them - I'm an electrician!".
- A second attempt by "electrician Bott" failed in a similar way.
- To get an idea of the range of mathematics in which Bott made advances we look briefly at the contents of his collected papers.
- Included is the famous Bott periodicity theorem (1956) and the Morse-Bott functions, an important generalization of Morse functions which Bott introduced in the course of this work.
- Volume 2 contains Bott's papers on differential operators.
- M Atiyah's very warm notes on his joint work and friendship with Bott are included in the volume ...
- Many papers in this volume represent R Bott, a teacher and expositor at his best.
- The comments regarding Bott as a teacher made in the quote above represent widely held views.
- Other honours which were bestowed on Bott included honorary doctorates from the University of Notre Dame (1980), McGill University (1987), Carnegie Mellon University (1989), and the University of Leicester (1995).
Born 24 September 1923, Budapest, Hungary. Died 20 December 2005, San Diego, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin Hungary, Topology, Prize Wolf
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive