Monday, August 18, 2008

Death of Henri Cartan

Not politics, but ... as some of you may know, I was a mathematician before becoming a specialist in things French. My doctoral dissertation drew on the work of two French mathematicians, René Thom and Jean-Pierre Serre, and both were students of Henri Cartan, who died last week at the age of 104. Cartan was one of the greats of twentieth-century mathematics, as well as a founding member of Bourbaki, the name adopted by a group of French mathematicians who aspired to write a series of texts that would establish the entirety of mathematics on a firm, rigorous, and modern foundation. He (like his father before him, also a mathematical giant) was one of the crown jewels of French thought, but I wonder how many in France even know his name.

No comments: