Solomon Lefschetz

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Solomon Lefschetz (3 September 1884-5 October 1972) was a US mathematician who did fundamental work on algebraic topology, its applications to algebraic geometry, and the theory of non-linear ordinary differential equations. He was born in Moscow into a Jewish family (his parents were Turkish citizens) who moved shortly after that to Paris. He was educated there in engineering, but emigrated to the USA in 1905.

He was badly injured in an industrial accident in 1907, losing both hands. He moved towards mathematics, receiving a Ph.D. in algebraic geometry from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1911. He then took positions in Nebraska and Kansas, moving to Princeton in 1924, where he was soon given a permanent position. He remained there until 1953.

In the application of topology to algebraic geometry, he followed the work of Charles mile Picard, whom he had heard lecture in Paris. He proved theorems on the topology of hyperplane sections of algebraic varieties, which provide a basic inductive tool (these are now seen as allied to Morse theory, though a Lefschetz pencil of hyperplane sections is a more subtle system than a Morse function because hyperplanes intersect each other). The Picard-Lefschetz formula in the theory of vanishing cycles is a basic tool relating the degeneration of families of varieties with 'loss' of topology, to monodromy. His book L'analysis situs et la gomtrie algbrique from 1924, though opaque foundationally given the current technical state of homology theory, was in the long term very influential (one could say that it was one of the sources for the eventual proof of the Weil conjectures, through SGA7). In 1924 he was awarded the Bcher Memorial Prize for his work in mathematical analysis.

The Lefschetz fixed point theorem, now a basic result of topology, he developed in papers from 1923 to 1927, initially for manifolds. Later, with the rise of cohomology theory in the 1930s, he contributed to the intersection number approach (that is, in cohomological terms, the ring structure) via the cup product and duality on manifolds. His work on topology was summed up in his monograph Algebraic Topology (1942). From 1944 he worked on differential equations.

He was editor of the Annals of Mathematics from 1928 to 1958. During this time, Annals became an increasingly well-known and respected journal, and Lefschetz played an important role in this. The rise of Annals, in turn, stimulated American mathematics.

See also: Lefschetz hyperplane theorem, Lefschetz duality.

External links

sl:Solomon Lefschetz

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