In 1956 Milnor published a paper proving that there are manifolds homeomorphic to the 7-sphere but not diffeomorphic to it. Seeking to generalise this example, he was led in around 1960 to introduce a construction for killing homotopy groups of manifolds. When this was generalised to killing relative homotopy groups it became a general and powerful method of construction. An obstruction arises to killing the last group, and the analysis of this obstruction in general leads to a new theory.
- Topology Seminar