David Eisenbud

Professor of Mathematics, UC Berkeley
  • Comments are welcome on this recent DRAFT of the book "The Practice of Algebraic Curves" on which Joe Harris and I are working. Please send them to either of us by email, or let us know some other way.
  • The book will be published by the AMS (tentatively in Fall 2024).
  • Seminar on Commutative Algebra and Algebraic Geometry David at the Simons Foundation, 2010

    Academic Background

    After getting my PhD at the University of Chicago in 1970, I taught at Brandeis University for twenty-seven years, with sabbaticals in Paris, Bonn, and Berkeley. In 1997 I became Director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley; at the same time I joined the faculty of UC Berkeley as Professor of Mathematics.

    As Director of MSRI from 1997 to 2007, I had the satisfaction of supporting a huge amount of mathematics and related activity at the Institute. From 2003 to 2005 I was also President of the American Mathematical Society, an organization I came to admire a great deal. I was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006.

    Robert Bryant succeeded me as Director of MSRI in 2007, and from then until the fall of 2012 I divided my time between teaching at Berkeley and working as the first Director of Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Simons Foundation in New York, where I initiated the public programs in Mathematics, Theoretical Physics, and Theoretical Computer Science.

    I returned to MSRI in the year 2012-13 as an organizer of the year-long program on Commutative Algebra, and became Director of MSRI again in August, 2013, in which role I served until August, 2022. I have now gone "back" to teaching as Professor in the department of mathematics at UC Berkeley.

    When I applied to become the Director of MSRI I wrote to the hiring committee saying that, while the strength of MSRI's scientific program was already recognized around the world, I felt that MSRI badly needed two things: a physical facility worthy of such a world-class institution (and in particular a better auditorium); and an endowment that could enable long-term planning and protect the institution from possible future fluctuations in NSF support, which was essentially the only source of funding at the time.

    Now, in my retirement from the directorship, I have the satisfaction of having helped bring about both of these changes: The renovation and extension of the building to approximately twice its original size was accomplished in 2006, near the end of my first two terms, and a centerpiece of the construction was the beautiful and airy Simons auditorium, where Roger Penrose gave the inaugural lecture in 2006 Simons Auditorium Innaugural Lecture

    Jim Simons made the first substantial contribution to the Endowment, including the establishment of the "Eisenbud Professorship" at MSRI, at my retirement party in 2007. I undertook a major endowment campaign in my fourth term, and as I leave MSRI, its endowment stands at about $130 million; the extraordinary generosity of the lead gifts made by Jim and Marilyn Simons and matched by Henry and Marsha Laufer, led to the renaming of MSRI as the Simons Laufer Mathematical Sciences Institute, or SLMath for short.


    MacTutor Biography

    Souvenirs from my four terms as Director of MSRI:

    Research Interests

    My first paper was about permutation groups, and my thesis and subsequent few papers on non-commutative ring theory (my thesis advisors were Saunders MacLane and, unofficially, the English ring-theorist J.C. Robson.) I turned to commutative algebra, and subsequently to singularity theory, knot theory, and algebraic geometry. My papers also include one on a statistical application of algebraic geometry and one on juggling. Recently I've worked on the homological aspects of commutative algebra and algebraic geometry; and on computational tools for these fields:

    Ever since the early 70s I've used computers to produce examples in algebraic geometry and commutative algebra, and I've developed algorithms to extend the power of computation in this area. In 2009 I joined Mike Stillman and Dan Grayson as Co-PI on the grant to (further) develop the Macaulay2 system for symbolic computation. Some of the papers I'm proudest of were partly inspired by computations with that system.


    My interests outside mathematics include hiking, juggling, and, above all, music. Originally a flutist, I now spend most of my musical time singing art-songs (Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Debussy, ...) I broke down and bought a digital camera in November 2001, and you can find some of the results (alas, not up-to-date!) on my photo page.

    CV, Papers, Students

    Saunders Mac Lane: In Memoriam

    Saunders Mac Lane died on April 14, 2005. He was my thesis advisor---Irving Kaplansky was his first student, I was nearly his last; perhaps John Thompson is the most illustrious. I wrote a preface that contains some of my favorite stories about him for his Autobiography, which was originally published by AK Peters. He was a great figure, and very important for me personally.

    David Buchsbaum

    David Buchsbaum was my postdoctoral mentor at Brandeis, and we worked closely together for most of the first 10 years of my career. In addition to math, we spent a lot of time discussing department and university politics, and the history of the math department, great preparation for my future administrative activity. When he died in January 2021, at the age of 91, his former student Jerzy Weyman and I collected reminiscences from many of David's friends and students, and published them along with lots of photos in Remembering David Buchsbaum, which was published in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society.

    Yuri Ivanovich Manin

    It was my privilege to get to know Yuri Manin, and even to interview him for the Simons Foundation's Science Lives. I contributed an couple of memories of our friendship to the Homage to be published in the Gazette of the SMF

    Some Ongoing Work

    Here are some of my current mathematical projects:
  • Joe Harris and I are working on a new book, and I hope it will be ready for a copy-editor's attention this summer. Tentatively titled ``Practical Curves", we hope it serve to introduce a number of topics in the theory of projective algebraic curves. Most books on this subject end with the Riemann-Roch theorem; that is where our book will start. Our original impulse was to write a grown-up book on curves parallel to Beauville's beautiful book on algebraic surfaces. Thus we are aiming for a much less complete (and less lengthy) treatment than that of the great two-volume work of Arbarello, Cornalba, Griffiths and (for part 1) Harris.
    Our previous book was 3264 and All That; Intersection Theory in Algebraic Geometry. Intended as a second course on algebraic geometry, it takes intersection theory as a path through which many important aspects of the subject can be introduced. It was published by Cambridge University Press in the spring of 2016. Here are solutions to a large proportion of the exercises.

  • With Marc Chardin, Craig Huneke, and Bernd Ulrich I've done some work on residual intersections. The most recent work is related to residual intersections in the first serious case beyond the ones satisfying the ``Artin-Nagata'' conditions that guarantee the Cohen-Macaulay property for residual intersections: the ideals of 2 x 2 minors of generic 2 x n matrices.

  • With Jeremy Gray I'm working on a biographical paper (for mathematicians) and book (for historians) about the life and work of F.S. Macaulay. Though his work contains aspects that look quite various, I think there's a very strong underlying thread that can be traced from the early work on plane curves right through his invention (in the graded case) of the notion of what we now call a Gorentstein ring.

    I am grateful to the National Science Foundation for partial support in my work on these projects!

    Commutative Algebra Book

    My book, "Commutative Algebra with a View Toward Algebraic Geometry", published in 1995 by Springer-Verlag, won the AMS's Leroy P. Steele Prize for Exposition in 2010.

    Here are some correction lists:

    The pages above are now rather out-of-date; this is a project I'll get to sooner or later. But if you are aware of further corrections or have any comments, I hope you'll send them to me.


    David Eisenbud
    Director, MSRI
    17 Gauss Way
    Berkeley, CA 94720

    email: <de@msri.org>


    UC Berkeley Mathematics

    A film about χiralbacks (= chiral rattlebacks) by Tadashi Tokieda (the password is msri)

    Two spinning turtles 5 2 14 from Zala Films on Vimeo.

    Created: August 2, 1995. Last updated: November 30, 2014.