Pierre Deligne

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Pierre Deligne, 2005

Pierre René, Viscount Deligne (born 3 October 1944) is a Belgian mathematician, and academic at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey. He is known for work on the Weil conjectures, leading to a complete proof in 1973. He is the winner of the 1978 Fields Medal, 2008 Wolf Prize, and the 2013 Abel Prize.


  • The nice thing about mathematics is doing mathematics.
    • Pierre Deligne in: Philip Ball. "Mathematician wins award for shaping algebra: 2013 Abel Prize goes to Belgian Pierre Deligne, who proved a deep conjecture about algebra and geometry." in Nature, 20 March 2013
  • From [Grothendieck] and his example, I have also learned not to take glory in the difficulty of a proof: difficulty means we have not understood. The ideal is to be able to paint a landscape in which the proof is obvious.
    • Pierre Deligne in: "Notices of the American Mathematical Society", Volume 63, Number 3, pp. 250, March 2016.

Quotes about Pierre Deligne[edit]

  • In Récoltes et Semailles, Grothendieck counts his twelve disciples. The central character is Pierre Deligne, who combines in this tale the features of John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, and Judas the betrayer. The weight of symbols!
  • Deligne’s method was totally perpendicular to Grothendieck’s: he knew every trick of his master’s trade by heart, every concept, every variant. His proof, given in 1974, is a frontal attack and a marvel of precision, in which the steps follow each other in an absolutely natural order, without surprises. Those who heard his lectures had the impression, day after day, that nothing new was happening–whereas every lecture by Grothendieck introduced a whole new world of concepts, each more general than the one before–but on the last day, everything was in place and victory was assured. Deligne knocked down the obstacles one after the other, but each one of them was familiar in style. I think that this opposition of methods, or rather of temperament, is the true reason behind the personal conflict which developed between the two of them. I also think that the fact that “John, the disciple that Jesus loved” wrote the last Gospel by himself partly explains Grothendieck’s furious exile that Grothendieck has imposed upon himself.
  • Usually mathematicians are either theory builders, who develop tools, or problem-solvers, who use those tools to find solutions... Deligne is unusual in being both. He’s got a very special mind.
    • Peter Sarnak in: Philip Ball. "Mathematician wins award for shaping algebra." in Nature, 20 March 2013

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