About Henri Paul Cartan
Henri Paul Cartan
- Born: 8 July 1904 in Nancy, France
- Died: 13 Aug 2008 in Paris, France
- Parents: son of mathematician Élie Cartan and Marie-Louise Bianconi
- Married: on 14 September 1935 to Nicole Antoinette Weiss.
- Children: two sons and three daughters: Jean, Francoise, Étienne, Mireille, and Suzanne.
- Occupation: Mathematician
Cartan worked on analytic functions, the theory of sheaves, homological theory, algebraic topology and potential theory, producing significant developments in all these areas. Some of his work is put in context by R O Wells Jr. reviewing :-
The theory of functions of several complex variables has gone from its infancy with the work of Hartogs, Levi and Poincaré shortly after the turn of the century to its current role as a central field of modern mathematics, much as its predecessor, function theory in one complex variable, did in the 19th century. A central figure in this development has been Henri Cartan, whose series of papers in this field starting in the 1920's dealt with fundamental questions relating to Nevanlinna theory, generalizations of the Mittag-Leffler and Weierstrass theorems to functions of several variables, problems concerned with biholomorphic mappings and the biholomorphic equivalence problem, domains of holomorphy and holomorphic convexity, etc. The major developments in the theory from 1930 to 1950 came from Cartan and his school in France, Behnke's school in Münster, and Oka in Japan. The central ideas up to that time were synthesized in Cartan's Séminaires in the early 1950's, and these were very influential to the next several generations of mathematicians. Cartan's accomplishments were broad and he influenced mathematics through his writing, his teaching, his seminars, and his students in a remarkable manner.
Another aspect of Cartan's work which has been involved with politics and in particular supporting human rights. In 1974 a case arose when the Russian authorities placed the mathematician Leonid Plyushch in a special psychiatric hospital. Andrei Sakharov pointed out that this was a political act and Cartan began a strenuous campaign for Plyushch's release. The International Congress of Mathematicians was held in Vancouver in 1974 and this presented an opportunity to gain wide international support for Plyushch with a thousand signatures to a petition for his release. After the Congress Cartan played a major role in setting up the Comité des Mathématiciens to support Plyushch in particular, and all dissident mathematicians. In January 1976 the Soviet authorities released Plyushch which was a major success for Cartan and the Comité des Mathématiciens. But the Committee did not stop after this success. It has supported other mathematicians who have suffered for their political views, such as the Uruguayan mathematician José Luis Massera. For his outstanding work in assisting dissidents Cartan received the Pagels Award from the New York Academy of Sciences.
- Speaker at International Congress 1950
- BMC plenary speaker 1955
- Speaker at International Congress 1958
- LMS Honorary Member 1959
- Fellow of the Royal Society 1971
- Wolf Prize 1980
- Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur 1989
- DVR Honorary Member 1994