Saunders Mac Lane: A Mathematical Autobiography

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Taylor & Francis, May 25, 2005 - Mathematics - 354 pages
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Saunders Mac Lane was an extraordinary mathematician, a dedicated teacher, and a good citizen who cared deeply about the values of science and education. In his autobiography, he gives us a glimpse of his "life and times," mixing the highly personal with professional observations. His recollections bring to life a century of extraordinary accomplishments and tragedies that inspire and educate. Saunders Mac Lane's life covers nearly a century of mathematical developments. During the earlier part of the twentieth century, he participated in the exciting happenings in Göttingen---the Mecca of mathematics. He studied under David Hilbert, Hermann Weyl, and Paul Bernays and witnessed the collapse of a great tradition under the political pressure of a brutal dictatorship. Later, he contributed to the more abstract and general mathematical viewpoints developed in the twentieth century. Perhaps the most outstanding accomplishment during his long and extraordinary career was the development of the concept of categories, together with Samuel Eilenberg, and the creation of a theory that has broad applications in different areas of mathematics, in particular topology and foundations. He was also a keen observer and active participant in the social and political events. As a member and vice president of the National Academy of Science and an advisor to the Administration, he exerted considerable influence on science and education policies in the post-war period. Mac Lane's autobiography takes the reader on a journey through the most important milestones of the mathematical world in the twentieth century.

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About the author (2005)

Biography of Saunders Mac Lane

Saunders Mac Lane was born on August 4, 1909 in Connecticut. He studied at Yale University and then at the University of Chicago and at Gttingen, where he received the D.Phil. in 1934. He has tought at Harvard, Cornell and the University of Chicago.

Mac Lane's initial research was in logic and in algebraic number theory (valuation theory). With Samuel Eilenberg he published fifteen papers on algebraic topology. A number of them involved the initial steps in the cohomology of groups and in other aspects of homological algebra - as well as the discovery of category theory. His famous and undergraduate textbook Survey of modern algebra, written jointly with G. Birkhoff, has remained in print for over 50 years. Mac Lane is also the author of several other highly successful books.

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