Michael Freedman is one of the world’s most lauded mathematicians. But entering college in 1968, he was still unsure whether he should pursue math or an education in art.
He chose mathematics and earned a doctorate from Princeton University in 1973. That same year he took a position at the University of California-Berkeley and began a long teaching career. In the ensuing decades, Freedman would make his mark in the field, garnering numerous awards along the way for his pioneering work.
Freedman was born into a family steeped in both the arts and sciences. His father, Benedict Freedman, was an engineer and mathematician who also played music. His mother, Nancy Mars Freedman, was an accomplished actress and artist who nurtured in the young Freedman an appreciation for the arts.
In 1981, Freedman’s ground-breaking research proved the four-dimensional version of the Poincaré conjecture. That won him the Fields Medal in 1986.
Freedman also taught at the University of California-San Diego, and in 1997 took a job at Microsoft, where he eventually ran the Microsoft Station Q lab at the University of California-Santa Barbara. There, his team’s work concentrated on developing the topological quantum computer.
By Bob Warren