Pavel Sergeevich Aleksandrov

Born: 7 May 1896 in Bogorodsk (also called Noginsk), Russia
Died: 16 Nov 1982 in Moscow, USSR

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Aleksandrov attended Moscow University and became Luzin's first student in 1915. He proved an important result but then, after failing to prove the continuum hypothesis (not surprising since it can neither be proved or disproved) he thought he was not capable of a mathematical career and became a theatre producer. After a short term in jail in 1919 at the time of the Russian revolution, Aleksandrov returned to Moscow University to resume his studies.

Aleksandrov studied with Urysohn, a fellow student, and they produced impressive results. The notion of a compact space and a locally compact space is due to them. They visited Göttingen and impressed Emmy Noether, Courant and Hilbert with their results on when a metric space is metrizable. They also visited Hausdorff in Bonn and Brouwer in Holland in 1926.

Aleksandrov became close friends with Hopf and Kolmogorov. He laid the foundations of homotopy theory and was the first to use the phrase 'kernel of a homomorphism'.

References (8 books/articles)

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JOC/EFR December 1996