King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) recognizes excellence in 5 categories: Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic Language & Literature, Medicine, and Science, since 1979

Professor Sir Michael Atiyah

Winner of the  
KFP Prize for  
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Topic: Mathematics


Nationality: United Kingdom

1987 - Professor Sir Michael Atiyah (low res)Professor Sir Michael Francis Atiyah was born in London in 1929 and grew up in the Sudan (1934-1941) and Egypt (1941-1945) before returning to the U.K. for higher education. He obtained his BA and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Cambridge (U.K.), and completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Cambridge and the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University (USA).

One of the greatest living mathematicians, Professor Sir Michael Atiyah’s first major contribution was the development (with Hirzebruch) of the K-theory, a versatile topologic technique, which led to the solution of many outstanding problems in mathematics. He then developed (with Singer) the “Atiyah-Singer index theorem,” an important theorem that deals with a number of solutions of elliptic differential equations. That theorem later proved to be useful in theoretical physics, such as constructing solutions of certain partial differential equations giving “instantons”. Atiyah analyzed the global geometry of  Yang-Mills    fields and of general gauge theories. Overall, his work provided a deeper insight and understanding of both the quantum field theory and general relativity. He published 15 books while most of his research was included in six volumes of Atiyah’s collected papers (except for his commutative algebra textbook and his later works).

Sir Michael was the Savilian Professor of Geometry and Fellow of St. Catherine’s College at Oxford University. He was also professor at Cambridge and Princeton Universities and visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, Chicago and other leading universities.

In addition to King Faisal International Prize for Science, Sir Michael Atiya received many other prestigious awards, medals and decorations, including the renowned Fields medal, the Abel Prize, the Royal Medal, the De Morgan Medal of the London Mathematical Society, the Copely Medal of the Royal Society, the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society, Nehru Medal and the President Medal of the Institute of Physics. He was awarded honorary doctorate degrees by more than 30 universities and honorary fellowships of scientific academies in more than 20 countries. Atiya was knighted in 1983 and made a member of the Order of Merit in 1992.

Sir Micheal Atiyah was the first President of Isaac Newton Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Master of Trinity College in Cambridge, President of the Royal Society in London (1990-1996), President of the Mathematical Society, Chancellor of the University of Leicester (1995-2005), President of the Royal Society of Edingurgh (2005-2008) and recipient of its Distinguished Honorary Fellowship in 2007. Following his retirement, he was appointed Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh. A bust of Sir Michael made by the Scottish artist David Annand is placed by the staircase at the Isaac Newton Institute.

Professor Atiyah, has been awarded, for his new theories and discovered deep correlations between the various branches of mathematics. Among his outstanding achievements are: the establishment of the K-theorem (with F. Hirzebruch); the demonstration of the Index theory (with I.M. Singer). Each of these has far reaching effects in the various branches of mathematics.

In addition, Professor Atiyah has applied the result of Algebraic geometry in developing partial differential equations which produce what is called “Instantons”. This is extremely valuable in modern theoretical physic which studies the structure of the matter. In this work, Professor Atiyah has analyzed the geometry that contains Yang–Mills Fields, and general measures theorems. His achievement has deepened the understanding of the Quantum Field Theory and general relatively.

More about Awarding this Winner

Sir Michael Atiyah FRS Newton Institute
The MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive J J O'Connor and E F Robertson, School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews
Michael Atiyah Wikipedia
Professor Sir Michael Atiyah OM FRS: Distinguished mathematician and supporter of Humanism British Humanist Association
Geometry in 2, 3 and 4 Dimensions Michael Atiyah, Clay Research Conference 2010
Cerimonia di conferimento del diploma di perfezionamento in Matematica honoris causa 5 Octobre 2007
Interview of Michael Atiyah, a British mathematician Rabeb Aloui
Great minds Honour Maths Maestro in Edinburgh 2009
From Quantum Physics to Number Theory Michael Atiyah December 2010
Read the Press Release Read the Acceptance Speech Watch the Winner’s Honoring & Speech View the Honorary’s Certificate