Person: Steenrod, Norman Earl
Norman Steenrod was an American mathematician who worked in algebraic topology and was one of the founders of homological algebra.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Earl Steenrod taught mechanical drawing but had astronomy as a hobby and he interested Norman in this exciting subject while he was still a young boy.
- Sarah Steenrod had music as a hobby and she gave Norman a lifelong interest in this.
- Norman attended school in Dayton and he was such an outstanding pupil that he was able to complete the twelve school years in only nine.
- The job had a very positive effect on Steenrod's finances too, for it gave him the extra cash needed to pay his university expenses.
- In 1927 Steenrod enrolled at the Miami University at Oxford, Ohio.
- Steenrod graduated from Ann Arbor in 1932 but did not obtain a fellowship to allow him to undertake research.
- Then things got better for Steenrod, for the quality of the paper led quickly to offers of fellowships from Harvard, Princeton and Duke.
- Wilder and Lefschetz put a strong case to Princeton for them to offer Steenrod a fellowship but even after achieving this it still took all their powers of persuasion to convince Steenrod to take up the Princeton offer.
- At Princeton Steenrod worked for his doctorate being supervised by Lefschetz.
- In 1939 Steenrod accepted an appointment to the University of Chicago where he worked for three years, returning to the University of Michigan in 1942.
- Steenrod spent five years back at Ann Arbor before accepting an offer from Princeton.
- After his first research work on point-set topology Steenrod then worked on algebraic topology.
- He is best known for introducing the Steenrod algebra which came about through his work in classifying by homotopy the maps of a complex into a sphere.
- He published a paper of fundamental importance on this topic in 1942 in which Steenrod squares are introduced for the first time.
- One of the other major topics of Steenrod's research was fibre bundles.
- Again Steenrod published a book on the topic which has become a classic.
- In 1957 Steenrod was given the honour of being asked to give the American Mathematical Society Colloquium lectures.
- Rather surprisingly although notes of the lectures circulated for many years they were not published until 1972, after Steenrod's death.
- In particular, they gave a clear account of some of Steenrod's more important contributions to the subject and covered, as well, the related work of several other mathematicians.
- Finally we mention the important work which Steenrod did on homology theories which appeared in the famous book Foundations of algebraic topology which he wrote with Samuel Eilenberg and was published in 1952.
- Steenrod received many honours for his major contribution to topology, the most important of which was his election to the National Academy of Sciences.
- To a great extent the success of this development can be attributed to Steenrod's influence.
- We noted above Steenrod's interest in music.
Born 22 April 1910, Dayton, Ohio, USA. Died 14 October 1971, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive