David Eisenbud

Professor of Mathematics, UC Berkeley
  • 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 first two terms as Director:

    From My third and fourth term as Director, 2013-2017:

    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.

    Yuri Ivanovich: Hommnage to be published in the Gazette of the SMF>/a>

    Some Ongoing Work

    Here are some of my current mathematical projects:
  • Joe Harris and I have finally finished a book that could be a "second course" on algebraic geometry, taking intersection theory as a path through which many important aspects of the subject can be introduced: 3264 and All That; Intersection Theory in Algebraic Geometry. It was published by Cambridge University Press in the spring of 2016. You can find solutions to a large proportion of the exercises here.

    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.