(March 28, 1928 – November 13, 2014)
Alexander Grothendieck is the greatest of all the mathematicians born in the 20th century. Apart from revolutionizing Topology, Functional Analysis, and Number Theory, his exploits on Algebraic Geometry are prettier than Mona Lisa. In the process, he invented the alluring Theory of Schemes. If you think that Albert Einstein was the most brilliant mind of 20th century, then, you will benefit from poking a glance at the creations of Alexander Grothendieck, Emmy Noether, Srinivasa Ramanujan and Henri Poincaré. Your opinion will make an about-turn by the time you are halfway through. The fact that Grothendieck abandoned maths while still in his prime and dejectedly burned thousands of pages of his unpublished manuscripts, made it hard for me to find the extra evidence which could have propelled him higher on this list. Still, enough proofs remain to consolidate his place in the annals of the greatests. He won every top accolade that existed in mathematics during his lifetime. Unfortunately, his protests against the Vietnam War (alongside anti-military stance) made him abandon his professorial chair in France and reject his Crafoord Prize: together with its US$250,000 reward. The turbulent genius thus went into reclusion (in the Pyrenees) from 1988 until his death in 2014: despite being the world’s greatest living mathematician during that period. Alexander Grothendieck was an outstanding genius. His achievements towers above that of any other mathematician born in the 20th century. A great feat for someone who did little or no mathematics in the last 25 years of his life!