Celebratio Mathematica

Raoul H. Bott


Loring Tu, coordinating editor

Figure 1. Raoul Bott in 2002.
Photo by Bachrach.

Raoul Bott passed away on Decem­ber 20, 2005. Over a five-dec­ade ca­reer he made many pro­found and fun­da­ment­al con­tri­bu­tions to geo­metry and to­po­logy. This is the second part of a two-part art­icle in the No­tices to com­mem­or­ate his life and work. The first part was an au­thor­ized bio­graphy, “The life and works of Raoul Bott” [◊], which he read and ap­proved a few years be­fore his death. Since then there have been at least three volumes con­tain­ing re­mem­brances of Raoul Bott by his erstwhile col­lab­or­at­ors, col­leagues, stu­dents, and friends [◊], [◊], [◊], I have also writ­ten else­where about my ex­per­i­ences work­ing with him [◊], This second part presents some per­son­al re­col­lec­tions that do not over­lap with what has already ap­peared in print. More re­min­is­cences and ap­pre­ci­ations of his work may be found in the up­com­ing fi­nal volume of the Col­lec­ted Pa­pers of Raoul Bott [◊].

Bott had a pas­sion for math­em­at­ics, which he kept to the very end, even after his re­tire­ment from Har­vard. At the same time, he was firmly planted in the real world. As many of his ac­quaint­ances would agree, he ex­em­pli­fied the French phrase joie de vivre. His math­em­at­ic­al work speaks for it­self, but it is hoped that the fol­low­ing re­min­is­cences can give some idea of his per­son­al­ity, his zest for life, and his hu­man­ity.

The con­tri­bu­tions are lis­ted in the or­der in which the con­trib­ut­ors first met Raoul Bott. As the co­ordin­at­ing ed­it­or, I have ad­ded a short in­tro­duct­ory para­graph (in it­al­ics) to the be­gin­ning of each con­tri­bu­tion.