Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mathematicians in Paris - I

What happens when mathematicians go to Paris? For us - me and my husband - the first experience was in Roissy (Charles de Gaulle) airport. While looking for trains to Paris one of our carry-on bags disappeared in a seemingly empty place. Caution - never let the bag handle out of your hand, not even for a second! Besides a little computer and two of my cameras (which I was using for taking pictures for my book) and all other precious things you take with you on a trip (and put in your carry-on bag not to lose!), gone were guide books, English-French dictionaries and my notes of places I wanted to find in Paris. Well, it meant I had no choice but start my "trip planning" over and see what I find as I go.
Paris has long been a magnet for artists and writers - medieval poet-thief François Villon, Molière ("It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable"), VoltaireGeorge Sand, Ernest Hemingway (If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.), Simone de Beauvoir, Françoise Sagan, Marcel Proust ("...we go off to a city to seek out a soul that it cannot contain but which we no longer have the power to expel from its nature."), Guillaume Apollinaire - just a few names from a long list of writers I have been associated with Paris since high school (yes, I was attending a school for students accelerating in math and physics, but I was reading like crazy - we did not have TV at home...). Paris has honored writers by naming more than 400 streets, squares, or promenades in their names according to David Burke's Writers in Paris.

Mathematicians are also loved in Paris, (not as much as writers though :-) ) but still there are about 100 streets named after mathematicians. There was no way to find all of them, and sometimes I forgot to take a picture of the street sign, but I found some. Already before my trip I saw the post with pictures in The n-Category Cafe and I found some more links:Paris streets named after mathematicians and Photos os street signs by arrondisment. But the real inspiration to find "mathematical places" in Paris was the paper by David Eugene Smith Historical-Mathematical Paris. (I will tell you next time how I tried to find places mentioned there.) (Here is an interesting collection of Monuments on Mathematicians to explore.)

And so - this is Paris:

Not really all of it, just about a quarter may be. Where do you start to get close to Paris? At Point Zero?

Or you try to get up close and personal to some of the images you had in your mind for a long time:

Of course, we went to say "Bonjour!" to the famous lady as did hundreds of others:

It is polite to do so, especially because I had met her in the 1970's when Armand Hammer brought her to Moscow. I have to admit, even if La Joconde is the most famous painting in the world, my favourite da Vinci painting is Madonna Litta in Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg:

We saw much more in the Louvre than objects marked with stars in tour guides. On an extremely rainy day it was a good workout to stroll through numerous galleries. You can do a virtual tour through the Louvre.
Paris is not only a classical beauty - we enjoyed some modern parts of it also:

Occasionally I remembered about the street signs and took pictures of them.
 Descartes perhaps was honored as a mathematician and as a philosopher, therefore he has two streets. Or may be having several streets named after him stresses how often he used to change his address.

Lagrange is considered alternatively Italiand and French mathematician - Lagrange survived the French Revolution and became the first professor of analysis at the École Polytechnique upon its opening in 1794. Napoleon named Lagrange to the Legion of Honour and made him a Count of the Empire in 1808. He is buried in the Panthéon.

Pierre-Simon Laplace is remembered as one of the greatest scientists of all time, sometimes referred to as a French Newton or Newton of France.
I have to confess. I knew nothing about Maurice Audin who disappeared during The Battle of Algiers in 1957 never having a chance to defend his doctoral thesis. In June 2007, fifty years after her husband's disappearance, Madame Audin wrote to Nicolas Sarkozy, the newly-elected French president, asking him that the mystery of her husband's disappearance be cleared up.
In January 2009, Michèle Audin, the daughter of Maurice Audin, herself a mathematician, publicly declined the French Legion d'Honneur, which had been awarded for her work. As a motivation for her refusal, she cited the lack of response from the French government to her mother's letter.

Another mathematician who suffered because of his political views was Marquis de Condorcet. I have missed rue Condorcet in Paris which is another one named after him like it was with Descartes.
What would be Paris without love? I remeber this song since my childhood.
Maîtresse, embrasse-moi, baise-moi, serre-moi
Maîtresse, embrasse-moi, baise-moi, serre-moi,
Haleine contre haleine, échauffe-moi la vie,
Mille et mille baisers donne-moi je te prie,
Amour veut tout sans nombre, amour n'a point de loi.
(Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585))  

There are more than one ways of saying "I love you". This is a wall where "I love you" is written in 311 languages. There is a video of it here.
More about my trip to Paris next time...

No comments:

Post a Comment