Laurent Schwartz (1915-2002)
The famous French mathematician Laurent Schwartz (born on March 15, 1915) died on July 14, 2002. The book contains articles written by Schwartz's colleagues, former students, relatives and friends. Some articles are devoted to mathematical questions and can be appreciated mainly by mathematicians; some others describe Schwartz's numerous political and social activities, his private interests and fancies, concerns and events of his private life. Laurent Schwartz became famous as the author of the theory of distributions, a branch of mathematics that has made its way to all branches of mathematical analysis and applied mathematics. He worked at the University of Paris from 1953, and moved to the École Polytechnique in 1959. His students recall him as an excellent teacher. He had a passion for teaching (he taught his younger brother in childhood to decline Greek nouns with enjoyments on both sides). Schwartz was also involved in a reform of the system of education, including the system for selection of students entering universities. He was also very active in social and political questions. He always supported human rights and actions against wars and colonialism. When the first Mathematical Congress after the war took place in Harvard in 1950, Schwartz had serious troubles getting an entry visa to the USA. After a big effort from mathematicians, a visa was given to him (as well as to J. Hadamard, which was Schwartz's condition).
The mathematician Laurent Schwartz had always made a big effort to improve the world he lived in. He was the chairman of a protest association “Comité Audin”, investigating the murder of a mathematician Maurice Audin during the Algerian war in the 50’s, and a founding member of the “Comitée des mathématiciens” in the 70’s, which was created to support all persecuted mathematicians in totalitarian countries. He was also engaged in many other social activities. Shortly before his death, he published his autobiography “Un mathématicien aux prises avec le siècle”, which is an excellent description and analysis of development of mathematics and of the political events in the past century.