Schwartz’ Creation of the Theory of Distributions
1. Laurent Schwartz (born 1915) graduated in mathematics from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in 1937. After military service he began his research in 1940 in the Strasbourg science faculty which had fled to Clermont-Ferrand during the German occupation. There he received his doctoral degree in 1943. In 1944 he became an educational assistant at the University of Grenoble, and in 1945 professor in the science faculty at Nancy (see Schwartz’  description of mathematics in France during the war). In 1953 he became attached to the Paris educational system, first (1953–1959) as a professor at the science faculty and later (from 1959) as a professor at the Ecole Polytechnique. Schwartz is considered one of the leading mathematicians in France, maybe of the whole world, and has been a member of the team writing N. Bourbaki’s Eléments de Mathématique. He has been awarded honorary doctorates at universities all over the world and has received various prizes, most important of all the Field’s Medal which he received in 1950 for his creation of the theory of distributions. Laurent Schwartz is known for his political activism. According to himself his strong left wing opinions are guided by his desire to be as rigorous and logical in politics as in mathematics. This explains the influence of his mathematics on his political ideas. The influence of his political convictions on his mathematical work is restricted, he jokingly told me [1978, Interview], to the distraction that his political activity causes on his mathematical research.
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