The repaired memory of the philosopher of mathematics Albert Lautman

At first glance, it is a conference like the Ecole normale supérieure (ENS) regularly hosts. From October 27 to 29, philosophers, mathematicians and historians will examine the life and work of Albert Lautman, mathematician and resistance fighter, shot in 1944 at the age of 36. Nothing could be more normal when it comes to a former student of this institution, having navigated between these two disciplines, perhaps the most prestigious. In reality, the event is almost the redress of a memorial injustice. And its organizer, the society of friends of Jean Cavaillès, measures it better than anyone.

Since the end of the Second World War, Cavaillès has taken a prominent place in the Pantheon of combatant martyrs. Philosopher of mathematics, too, network leader, captured by the Nazis and shot, he was erected as a symbol of the University Resistance. At the Sorbonne, the ENS or the University of Strasbourg, rooms and amphitheatres bear his name. A college, also, in Figanières, in the Var, and a few streets in France. Nothing like it for Albert Lautman, just a small pedestrian street, in the center of Toulouse, where he lived the last years of his life. With, ironically, a spelling error on the plate which displays two “n”. “In the stories, Lautman always comes second, when he is not forgotten, regrets Alya Aglan, professor of contemporary history at Paris-I. It may be in the process of being fixed. “

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The trajectory of the two men shows an astonishing similarity. Admitted to the Ecole normale supérieure in 1926, at the age of 18, Lautman rubbed shoulders with Raymond Aron and Georges Canguilhem, but especially Jean Cavaillès. More than five years old, the latter plays the role of tutor with him to prepare for the aggregation.

It must be said that the two young men share the same passion for mathematics, an inclination not so common among literary people. They surveyed its long history, like their mentor Léon Brunschvicg, under the direction of whom both will do their thesis, but are also passionate about the mathematical ferment then underway, and which will give rise in France to the Bourbaki movement. . Incorporated when the war broke out, both were taken prisoner, escaped, joined the Resistance and were shot in 1944, April 4 in Arras (Pas-de-Calais) for the eldest, the 1is August in Souge (Gironde), for the youngest.

Throughout their life, a solid friendship and an intellectual bond unite the two men. Together, they created a philosophical collection at Hermann. Geographically distant, they established a regular correspondence, before and during the war. “In a letter written in prison, Cavaillès writes that it is the conversations he had with Lautman that were the most precious to him”, emphasizes Alya Aglan.

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The repaired memory of the philosopher of mathematics Albert Lautman