A brief timeline for the life of

Alexander Grothendieck

(which has the advantage of accuracy)


1928: Alexander Grothendieck was born on March 28, 1928 in Berlin. His parents were Johanna (called Hanka) Grothendieck (August 21, 1900 — December 16, 1957) and Alexander (called Sascha) Schapiro (August 6, 1890 — 1942).

1928-33: Sascha Schapiro and Hanka Grothendieck, together with Hanka's daughter Frode (called Maidi, born 1924 from an earlier marriage) and Alexander (called Schurik), live together in Berlin. Schapiro works as a street photographer, one of the only jobs his anarchist beliefs allow him, Hanka works irregularly as a journalist.

1933: In May 1933, Sascha leaves Berlin for Paris, where he waits for Hanka to join him.

1933: In December, Hanka Grothendieck leaves Schurik with a foster family, the Heydorns, in Hamburg, and joins Sascha in France.

1934-39: Schurik lives with the Heydorns in Hamburg-Blankenese, goes to school there and then to Gymnasium. During this time, Sascha und Hanka take part in the Spanish civil war and return disillusioned; Hanka finds work in Nîmes.

1939: Schurik's foster mother, Dagmar Heydorn, decides that given the political situation and her own family's dangerous involvement with the Resistance, it would be safer for Schurik to be sent to join his parents in France. She locates the parents and sends him away by train. He first joins his father, then spends the summer with his mother in N^icirc;mes.

1940-1942: Hanka Grothendieck is interned, as an ``undesirable'' (German), in the Rieucros Camp near Mende, together with Alexander. From there, he goes to school in the village four or five kilometers distant. During this time Sascha is interned in the camp of Le Vernet, from which he is deported to Auschwitz in 1942.

1942-1944: The Rieucros camp is dissolved, the inmates are transferred to Gurs. Alexander is sent to the village Le Chambon sur Lignon, and attends the famous Collège C´ev´enol through his baccalauréat.

1945-1948: Grothendieck and his mother move to a small village near Montpellier; he works irregularly on a farm while studying mathematics at the university of Montpellier.

1948/49: Having obtained his degree, Grothendieck goes to Paris in view of obtaining a doctorate. He takes several courses and meets most of the famous mathematicians of the time, above all H. Cartan.

1949-1953: Cartan advises Grothendieck to do his doctorate in Nancy with Laurent Schwartz. He goes there and finishes his doctorate within two years, finding a new topology on tensor products of topological vector spaces.

1953/1954: Grothendieck spends time in Sao Paulo in Brazil, teaching topological vector spaces.

1955: Grothendieck spends part of the year at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, then visits Chicago. He hopes to find a position in France, has difficulties however because of his foreign nationality.

1959-1970: The IHES is created in Bures-sur-Yvette, in order for Grothendieck to have a research position there. During the twelve years he spends there, he completely renews the theory of algebraic geometry, writing EGA Éléments de Géométrie Algébrique (with Dieudonné) and SGA Séminaire de Géométrie Algébrique (with his students).

1966: At the International Congress of Mathematicians in Moscow, Grothendieck receives the Fields Medal. However, for political reasons, he refuses to travel to Moscow.

1970: Suddenly, on discovering that the IHES is partly funded by the miltary, Grothendieck leaves the institute. He becomes acutely interested in ecological causes and founds the group Survivre et Vivre.

1970-73: For two years, Grothendieck has a temporary post at the Collège de France in Paris, but he uses many of his lectures to talk about issues of ecology and peace.

1973: Grothendieck accepts a professorship at the University of Montpellier.

1973-84: Grothendieck lectures and has some graduate students in Montpellier. Until 1980, he lives in Villecun near Lodeve, then in Mormoiron near Carpentras.

1984-88: Discouraged by the teaching situation, Grothendieck applies for a temporary position with the CNRS for the remaining years before his retirement. His research statement for this application is Esquisse d'un Programme. From 1983 to 1985 he writes Recoltes et Semailles.

1980-90: During these years, Grothendieck writes thousands of pages of mathematical and non-mathematical meditations. His mathematical manuscripts are La longue marche à travers la théorie de Galois, (1981), A la poursuite des champs (1983), Esquisse d´un programme (1983), Les dérivateurs (1987); the non-mathematical works are the Eloge (1981, lost?), Récoltes et Semailles (1983-85), La clef des songes (1986).

1988: Grothendieck is awarded the Crafoord Prize jointly with Deligne, but refuses it. He retires officially on January 10, 1988.

1991: In August, Grothendieck leaves his home suddenly, without warning anyone, for an unknown location. He spends his time writing an enormous work on physics and philosophical meditations on themes such as free choice, determinism and the existence of evil. He refuses practically every human contact.