Cartan, Henri 1904–2008

views updated

Cartan, Henri 1904–2008

(Nicolas Bourbaki, a joint pseudonym, Henri Paul Cartan)


See index for CA sketch: Born July 8, 1904, in Nancy, France; died August 13, 2008, in Paris, France. Mathematician, educator, and author. Cartan has been called one of the greatest mathematicians of the latter twentieth century and one of the greatest French mathematicians of all time. His specialist field was algebraic topography, or the algebraic functions related to the shapes of various objects, also known as homological algebra. It was not a heavily populated field, but students were drawn to Cartan's lectures at the universities at Lille, Strasbourg, and Orsay, and notably at the University of Paris, where he taught from 1940 to 1969. He also served as the president of the International Mathematical Union from 1967 to 1970. More anonymously, but perhaps more importantly, Cartan was a founding member of the Bourbaki collective that published works under the pseudonym Nicolas Bourbaki. In 1939 the group began publishing Elements de mathematique, a massive, thirty-volume revision of classical mathematical analysis as it had been taught to French university students since the original version was published by Edouard Goursat around the year 1904, the year Cartan was born. Cartan received the prestigious Wolf Foundation Prize in mathematics in 1980. Most of his books appeared only in French, but some were translated, including Homological Algebra (1956), Elementary Theory of Analytic Functions of One or Several Complex Variables (1963), and Differential Forms (1971). The Bourbaki works in English include General Topology (1966) and Commutative Algebra (1972).



Los Angeles Times, August 31, 2008, p. B13.

New York Times, August 25, 2008, p. A17.