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The unity of mathematics: A conference in honour of Sir Michael Atiyah


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21st September 2021 to 23rd September 2021


Sir Michael Atiyah (1929-2019) was the dominant figure in UK mathematics for many decades.  Amongst his many distinguished positions, he was the founding Director of the Isaac Newton Institute (1990-96). He was also President of the London Mathematical Society (1974 -76). In his Presidential Address “The Unity of Mathematics”,  delivered on November 19th, 1976,  he remarked:   “The aspect of mathematics which fascinates me most is the rich interaction between its different branches, the unexpected links, the surprises…”. Those who knew him will know that this fascination was an ongoing theme throughout his life.

The London Mathematical Society spearheaded the idea of a meeting of the same title to celebrate Sir Michael’s immense contributions to mathematics and the mathematical life of this country.  It is being organised jointly with the Isaac Newton Institute and has been made possible owing to the generosity of the LMS and the INI, in partnership with the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research, the Clay Mathematical Institute and the Mathematical Institute, Oxford.

The conference will consist of a selection of talks which we trust Sir Michael would have found interesting and which reflect the interactions which he so much appreciated.  The speakers cover a broad range of mathematical generations and topics, ranging from number theory to theoretical physics, and include representatives from Oxford, Cambridge, Bonn, Princeton and Edinburgh – places which played a fundamental role at various stages of Sir Michael’s long mathematical life. The presentations should be accessible to a broad audience.

It is anticipated that registration will open in late spring. Due to the pandemic, there is some likelihood that the event will not be able to run as a fully face-to-face meeting. It is the intention of the organisers that, in this case, it will take place as either a hybrid event, with both face-to-face and online participants or, in an extreme situation, a fully virtual meeting. The situation will be reviewed regularly with a final decision made nearer the time.

Assuming the conference can take place as planned, there will be a conference dinner at Trinity College Cambridge, with some accommodation available for participants in Murray Edwards College. Limited funding for accommodation and travel will be available especially for early career researchers. For advance expressions of interest and notification when registration opens, please email Kathryn de Ridder at office[at][dot]uk, using the subject line 'Sir Michael Atiyah Conference'.

A number of grants funded by the NSF are available to cover full expenses for PhD students and postdoctoral researchers from the United States. Women and members of other under-represented groups are encouraged to apply. To record an advance expression of interest, please contact Laura Schaposnik  at schapos[at]uic[dot]edu


  • Robbert Dijkgraaf (IAS)
  • Nigel Higson (Penn State)
  • Minhyong Kim (Oxford)
  • Holly Krieger (Cambridge)
  • Rahul Pandharipande (ETH)
  • Oscar Randal-Williams (Cambridge)
  • Peter Sarnak (Princeton)
  • Nick Sheridan (Edinburgh)
  • Catharina Stroppel (Bonn)
  • Maryna Viazovska (EPFL)
  • Edward Witten (IAS)

Scientific Committee

  • Nigel Hitchin (Oxford, Chair) 
  • Simon Donaldson (Stony Brook)
  • Dai Evans (Cardiff and LMS Council)
  • Lisa Jeffreys (Toronto)
  • Jon Keating (Oxford and LMS President)
  • Ivan Smith (Cambridge)
  • Richard Thomas (Imperial)


  • José Figueroa-O’Farrill (Edinburgh, Lead)
  • Laura Schaposnik (University of Illinois at Chicago)
  • Caroline Series (Warwick and LMS President 2017-19)
  • Ivan Smith (Cambridge)
  • Paul Sutcliffe (Durham)
  • Henry Wilton (Cambridge)   


The Organisers would like to thank the below bodies for their generous support of the conference.

University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons