Reflections on the legacy of Harish-Chandra
The theory he created still stands -- if I may be excused a clumsy simile -- like a Gothic cathedral, heavily buttressed below but, in spite of its great weight, light and soaring in its upper reaches, coming as close to heaven as mathematics can. Harish, who was of a spiritual, even religious, cast and who liked to express himself in metaphors, vivid and compelling, did see, I believe, mathematics as mediating between man and what one can only call God. Occasionally, on a stroll after a seminar, usually towards evening, he would express his feelings, his fine hands slightly upraised, his eyes intent on the distant sky; but he saw as his task not to bring men closer to God but God closer to men. For those who can understand his work and who accept that God has a mathematical side, he accomplished it. [Langlands on Harish-Chandra.]
About the talk:
Harish-Chandra and Srinivasa Ramanujan were easily the two greatest Indian mathematicians of the last century. While the latter is a household name in India, Harish-Chandra, despite his sustained and seminal contributions to "Representation Theory" remains relatively unknown. A former student of Dirac, Harish-Chandra started his research career as a physicist in Cambridge before moving to an enormously succesful career as a mathematician at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
Although the talk will not be free of references to mathematical concepts of varying degrees of sophistication, most of them should be familiar to anyone, physicists, chemists or students, with some undergraduate training in mathematics. The talk will be an attempt to understand Harish-Chandra's place in the mathematical firmament and not an occasion for technical explanations.
About the Speaker:
Robert Langlands is uniquely qualified to give this talk having known Harish-Chandra closely for more than 20 years as a friend and colleague at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. While Harish-Chandra made "Representation Theory" a central area of research in mathematics, Robert Langlands introduced what is now known as the "Langlands Programme", a vast mathematical framework of conjectures which connect representation theory, analysis, geometry and number theory in remarkable ways. The Langlands Programme is one of the high watermarks of Twentieth Century mathematics, unrivalled, perhaps, in its scope and breathtaking in its vision.