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Robert MacPherson
MacPherson at Oberwolfach in 2008
Born (1944-05-25) May 25, 1944 (age 78)
Alma materSwarthmore College
Harvard University
AwardsNAS Award in Mathematics (1992)
Leroy P. Steele Prize (2002)
Heinz Hopf Prize (2009)
Scientific career
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Brown University
Princeton University
Doctoral advisorRaoul Bott
Doctoral studentsMark Goresky
Julianna Tymoczko
Kari Vilonen
Zhiwei Yun

Robert Duncan MacPherson (born May 25, 1944) is an American mathematician at the Institute for Advanced Study and Princeton University. He is best known for the invention of intersection homology with Mark Goresky, whose thesis he directed at Brown University, and who became his life partner. MacPherson previously taught at Brown University, the University of Paris, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1983 he gave a plenary address at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Warsaw.

Education and career

Educated at Swarthmore College and Harvard University, MacPherson received his PhD from Harvard in 1970. His thesis, written under the direction of Raoul Bott, was entitled Singularities of Maps and Characteristic Classes. Among his many PhD students are Kari Vilonen and Mark Goresky.

Honors and awards

In 1992 MacPherson was awarded the NAS Award in Mathematics from the National Academy of Sciences.[1] In 2002 he and Goresky were awarded the Leroy P. Steele Prize for Seminal Contribution to Research by the American Mathematical Society.[2][3] In 2009 he received the Heinz Hopf Prize from ETH Zurich. In 2012 he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.[4]


MacPherson's PhD advisee, Mark Goresky, later became his life partner. Their discovery of intersection homology made "both of them famous."[5] After the collapse of the Soviet Union, they were instrumental in channeling aid to Russian mathematicians, especially many who had to hide their sexuality.[5]

Selected publications


  1. ^ "NAS Award in Mathematics". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  2. ^ "Notices of the AMS 2002 p. 466" (PDF).
  3. ^ "List of Steele Prizes Seminal Contribution to Research".
  4. ^ List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, retrieved February 2, 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Robert D. MacPherson". Simons Foundation.