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Celebratio Mathematica

Raoul H. Bott

Introduction

by Loring W. 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” [e1], 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 [e4], [e5], [e2], I have also writ­ten else­where about my ex­per­i­ences work­ing with him [e3], 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 [5].

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.

Works

[1]R. Bott: Col­lec­ted pa­pers, vol. 1: To­po­logy and Lie groups. Edi­ted by R. D. MacPh­er­son. Con­tem­por­ary Math­em­aticians. Birkhäuser (Bo­ston, MA), 1994. MR 1280032 Zbl 0820.​01026 book

[2]R. Bott: Col­lec­ted pa­pers, vol. 2: Dif­fer­en­tial op­er­at­ors. Edi­ted by R. D. MacPh­er­son. Con­tem­por­ary Math­em­aticians. Birkhäuser (Bo­ston, MA), 1994. MR 1290361 Zbl 0807.​01033 book

[3]R. Bott: Col­lec­ted pa­pers, vol. 3: Fo­li­ations. Edi­ted by R. D. MacPh­er­son. Con­tem­por­ary Math­em­aticians. Birkhäuser (Bo­ston, MA), 1995. MR 1321886 book

[4]R. Bott: Col­lec­ted pa­pers, vol. 4: Math­em­at­ics re­lated to phys­ics. Edi­ted by R. D. MacPh­er­son. Con­tem­por­ary Math­em­aticians. Birkhäuser (Bo­ston, MA), 1995. MR 1321890 Zbl 0823.​01011 book

[5] R. Bott: Col­lec­ted pa­pers, vol. 5. Edi­ted by E. by L. W. Tu. Con­tem­por­ary Math­em­aticians. Spring­er/Birkhäuser, Cham (Ber­lin), 2017. MR 3848672 book