Photo of Michael Artin

Michael Artin

  • National Medal of Science
  • Mathematics And Computer Science

For his leadership in modern algebraic geometry, including three major bodies of work: étale cohomology; algebraic approximation of formal solutions of equations; and non-commutative algebraic geometry.

Michael Artin on algebra, abstract thinking, and neurology

Numbers and equations course through Michael Artin’s blood.

His father, one of the leading mathematicians of the twentieth century, created a protégé as he bestowed a love of learning that has lasted a lifetime.

“My father loved teaching as much as I do, and he taught me many things: sometimes mathematics, but also the names of wild flowers,” Artin wrote in 2002 after accepting the Steele Prize from the American Mathematical Society. “We played music and examined pond water.”

At Princeton, Artin studied both biology and math – eventually making a pivotal choice to pursue the latter.

“I planned to switch to biology at age thirty when, as everyone knew, mathematicians were washed up,” he joked.

Of course, that never happened.

Today, Artin, a professor emeritus at MIT, is known for introducing theories in modern algebraic geometry – the study of solutions to algebraic equations – that are staples in classrooms across the country.