Petit-Déjeuner with Cédric Villani

July 12, 2012 | By French Culture

On July 11, 2012, Antonin Baudry, the Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy, hosted the Friends of the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques and 2010 Fields Medal recipient Cédric Villani. Over breakfast, Villani gave a presentation of his work to an enthusiastic audience. Mr. Baudry welcomed the guests with the following speech.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Two thousand years ago, Greek philosophers assumed that truth was only found by debating honest and different viewpoints. It was the Socratic method of dialectic.

But one thousand and seven hundred years later, the criteria for seeking the truth radically changed. Statements were no longer verified by oral exchanges, but only by operations on written elements, formulas and symbols. Math became the ultimate proof, because it is the foundation for all kinds of written creations.

This is the common point between math and this mansion. This building is the home of French Culture. And by the way, I am Antonin Baudry, the Cultural Counselor. In fact, a part of this mansion will soon be devoted to the written world. It will become a French library. (And librairie).

Thus our similarity: we both consider writing as the language of knowledge and strive to solve the equations of the world with this tool. As you can see, we are very humble.

Now this may seem odd for a Cultural Counselor, but I too am passionate about math. It is actually my background, as I studied it at the Ecole Polytechnique. I strongly believe that math is a core element of French DNA. America wouldn’t be America without its constitution and the spirit of liberty. But France wouldn’t be France without math.

This is why I am, professionally and personally, extremely pleased this morning to host the Friends of the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques and today’s most prominent mathematician: Cédric Villani.

Dear Cédric, in 2010, you became the 11th French mathematician to receive the Fields Medal. With your research, you entered the long tradition of French mathematicians championing excellence, from Fermat, Fourier, Monge, Galois, Poincaré, the Bourbaki group… to you, the pioneer in mass transport theory. And we all here look forward to hearing your remarks. Our home is your home, dear Cédric.

I would like to deeply thank Véronique Carpentier, who organized this event with us. It was a pleasure a work with you, dear Véronique. And I am delighted to now give the floor to my dear friend Renaud Dutreil, Chairman of LVMH North America and President of Friends of Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques.

Antonin Baudry, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, New York, Wednesday July 11, 2012

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