A Mathematician Grappling with His Century
Laurent Schwartz is one of the most remarkable intellects of the 20th century. His discovery of distributions, one of the most beautiful theories in mathematics, earned him a 1950 Fields Medal. Beyond this formidable achievement, his love for science and for teaching led him to think deeply and lecture broadly to the general public on the significance of science and mathematics to the well-being of the world. At the same time, his commitment to the social good, even at the expense of his beloved research, proved a moral compass throughout his life. The fight for human rights and his major role in the battle against the wars in Algeria and Vietnam were typical of matters close to his heart. The story of his life in the context of his century provides for future generations an inspiring testimonial from an extraordinary mathematician and thinker. Laurent Schwartz is a strategist of ideas, within mathematics and without. He is a great communicator who has drawn huge audiences and conveyed to them the fragrance of research, or the joy of teaching, or the value of freedom. His is a mind whose company is never dull. He belongs to the great libertarian tradition of France. And his book has the very French characteristic of giving serious consideration to the life of the intellect. No man's life can be encompassed in one telling, yet the spirit of the man and his times are well caught in his autobiography. (K. Chandrasekharan, Notices of the AMS)
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