See more of the story

Alexander Grothendieck, 86, an opinionated and reclusive giant of 20th-century mathematics who shunned accolades and supported pacifist and environmental causes, died Thursday.

Cause of death was not included in the French presidency's official statement.

According to the French daily Le Monde, Grothendieck had been living for decades in a hideaway home in the village of Lasserre.

He was a leading mind behind algebraic geometry — a field with practical applications including satellite communications. In 1966, he was awarded the Fields Medal, but refused to travel to Moscow to accept it for political reasons.

Born on March 28, 1928, in Berlin, Grothendieck was the son of an anarchist Russian-Jewish father and a ­German mother — whose family name he took. After his father left Germany as the Nazis took power in 1933, he moved in with another family. With World War II beginning six years later, Grothendieck himself fled — to France. He spent time in an internment camp with his mother; his father died in Auschwitz.

His mathematics skills largely emerged after the war, at a science and technology university in southern Montpellier, and at France's Institute of High Scientific Studies, IHES, founded in 1958.

Grothendieck set up a group that backed environmentalist and pacifist causes. His memoir, whose title can be translated into English as "Harvests and Sowings," was never published widely, and he reportedly wanted all his unpublished writings destroyed.

In a statement Friday, President Francois Hollande hailed "one of our greatest mathematicians" and "an out-of-the-ordinary personality in the philosophy of life."

Delford Smith, 84, who founded a major international aviation company but who may be most remembered for his determination to preserve the mammoth seaplane known as the Spruce Goose — built in the 1940s by wealthy recluse Howard Hughes — died Friday at his home in near Portland, Ore.

In 1960, Smith started a small company in the Willamette Valley, in northwest Oregon, that used helicopters to spray seed, douse wildfires and perform other commercial aviation tasks. The company grew to become Evergreen International Aviation, which flew cargo and passenger planes for the federal government and provided baggage, cleaning, aircraft towing and other ground services at dozens of major airports.

Evergreen delivered aid to Africa, flew military support missions during the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars and, in 1979, flew the shah of Iran to safety.

The museum, which Smith opened in 2001, includes a water park with slides that start inside a Boeing 747 perched on the roof. But its main attraction for flight buffs is the Spruce Goose, also known as the Hughes H-4 ­Hercules. The world's largest flying boat, it has a wingspan of 320 feet, more than the length of a football field.

The plane was conceived with the help of Henry J. ­Kaiser, a shipbuilder, as a way to ferry supplies and troops during World War II. Partly paid for by Hughes and built out of wood — mostly birch, not spruce — because of wartime restrictions on materials, it was completed too late for its task.

But it did fly, once. On Nov. 2, 1947, with Hughes at the controls, the Spruce Goose took off from a harbor near Long Beach, Calif., and traveled for about a mile, reaching an altitude of about 70 feet before landing back in the harbor. For the next three decades, Hughes paid a staff of dozens to maintain the plane in a ­hangar.

He died in 1976, and the Goose later became a tourist attraction in Long Beach, leased by the Walt Disney Co. In 1992, when Disney canceled the lease (as well as its lease on the Queen Mary ocean liner, which operated as a hotel nearby), Smith and his son Michael, a former Air Force pilot who became an Evergreen executive, agreed to buy the Goose from its owner, the Aero Club of Southern ­California.

Over the next 10 years or so, the plane was taken apart and sent by barge, train and truck to McMinnville, where it was reassembled and put on view at the museum. Smith opened the museum in its current location in memory of his son, who was killed in a car crash in 1995.

Gisèle Masson, 89, the grande dame of La Grenouille, the classic French restaurant on the East Side of Manhattan that was a favorite of high-society types and celebrities of various stripes, of fashion moguls and publishing executives, died Nov. 5 in Paris.

Famed for its haute cuisine, elaborate floral arrangements, gently flattering lighting, tableside service and genteel ambience, La Grenouille is a survivor of an era when French cooking and elegant décor — exemplified by such now-departed restaurants as Le Pavillon, La Côte Basque, La Caravelle, Le Cygne and Lutèce — dominated the elite stratum of New York dining establishments.

Since opening during a blizzard in December 1962, La Grenouille — the name (which is properly pronounced greh-NOO-ee) means "the frog" — has been among the most well-reviewed restaurants in the city. And though occasionally chided as being a dowager or a stodgy relic of a bygone age, it is considered among the nation's finest.

Masson was born Gisèle Collas in Paris on Jan. 7, 1925. Her father, Jules, was a historian; her mother, the former Amélie Mercier, was a milliner. She left school during World War II and came to the United States in 1949, arriving in New York with $35. Shortly after her arrival, she encountered Charles Masson, whom she had known slightly in Paris, and soon married him.

news services