From antiquity the subject of geometry has been at the centre of mathematics. The ancient Greeks were fascinated by the subject and studied it extensively, giving us Euclidean geometry. The modern view of geometry dates to the middle of the 19th century, when Gauss introduced and developed the theory of curved surfaces. He was followed by Riemann who constructed the theory of higher-dimensional curved spaces, now called Riemannian geometry. Their work began a period of flowering of geometry, and our present-day understanding of the subject emanates directly from their work.
Nigel Hitchin is one of the most influential geometers of our time. The impact of his work on geometry and on many of the allied areas of mathematics and physics is deep and lasting. On numerous occasions, he has discovered elegant and natural facets of geometry that have proven to be of central importance. His ideas have turned out to be crucial in areas of mathematics and physics, far removed from the context in which he first developed them. By exploring ignored corners of geometry, Hitchin has repeatedly uncovered jewels, many more than described below, that have changed the course of developments in geometry and related areas, and changed the way mathematicians think about these subjects.