Canadian Mathematical Society

Henri Cartan, 1904 - 2008

The following was received today from the International Mathematical Union:

The world has lost one of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century. Henri Cartan, a legendary figure in mathematics, died in Paris on 13 August, at the age of 104 years.

The son of the great mathematician Elie Cartan, his contributions to mathematics were fundamental, from several complex variables to algebraic topology and homological algebra. A member of the Bourbaki group, his participation in the rejuvenation of the French mathematical school was essential, in particular through his seminar held at the École Normale Supérieure. His roles as teacher and mentor were also exceptional, and were felt well beyond national boundaries.

During the critical years after the second world war, Cartan's enduring friendship with the German mathematician Heinrich Benhke, and his own personal generosity, contributed greatly to the rebirth of German mathematics. He was made an honorary member of the German Mathematical Society (DMV) in 1994.

His natural preoccupation with international cooperation led to his active involvement with the International Mathematical Union, of which he was President from 1967 to 1970. As such he chaired the Fields Medal Committee for the Nice International Congress of Mathematicians in 1970.

He was actively involved in the defense of mathematicians who were jailed or discriminated against in their countries, and was an ardent defender of European unity.

Apart from his professional achievements, Henri Cartan will be remembered for his personal qualities. He was generous to students, colleagues and friends, and a vigorous defender of Human Rights.

His death is a severe loss to the mathematical community worldwide.

International Mathematical Union
22 August 2008

An interview of Henri Cartan conducted in March, 1999, and published in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society may be found at

On-line obituaries may be found at

Memorial Web sites for Henri Cartan

100th issue of the Gazette des Mathématiciens, the news publication of Société Mathématique de France, carried some tributes to Cartan, two of which are reproduced in September 2004 issue of the European Mathematical Society Newsletter:

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