Born in London to a Lebanese writer, I grew up in Sudan and Egypt...but spent most of my academic life at Oxford in Cambridge and the Institute for Advanced Study.
As an undergraduate, I was interested in classical projective geometry and wrote my first paper on twisted cubics...which led to a prize that perhaps kept me in mathematics rather than my intended switch to architecture and archaeology.
A big part of life has been collaborations with other mathematicians internationally...Raoul Bott, Isadore Singer, Friedrich Hirzebruch, John Todd, et al.
For example, working with Hirzebruch, we laid the foundations for topological K-theory, an important tool in algebraic topology...it describes ways in which spaces can be twisted.
My best known result was the Index Theorem, proven with Singer; it is now widely used in counting the number of independent solutions to differential equations.
Though now retired, my more recent work involves notions from theoretical physics, in particular instantons and monopoles from quantum field theory.
In addition to being the President of the Royal Society of London, I have been honored by awards such as the Fields Medal, the Copley Medal, and the Abel Prize.
Michael Atiyah (1929 - )