Retirement at Fifty
Another reason for departure from Bourbaki was age, since membe
must retire at fifty. This rule was initiated by Weil when the foundi
members were approaching this age. At the end of Dieudonne
birthday lunch during the summer conference of 1956, held
Sallieres-les-Bains in the department of Drome, Henri Cartan read
letter from Weil (who had been living in the United States since 19
and only came to one in three conferences), which proposed a "gra
ual disappearance of the founding members."
According to Weil, two considerations motivated his proposal. T
first was that "the number of conference participants is sometim
too high to allow fruitful work," and the second was that "the foun
ing members are 'more equal than others,' and thus the more rece
members 'don't feel obliged to take on full responsibility' in grou
discussions." But surely an additional motivating factor was th
widely held belief that a mathematician is most brilliant and produ
tive in his youth. As Dieudonne said in 1968, "[...] a mathematicia
above fifty can still be a very good mathematician, still very produ
tive, but he rarely can adapt to new ideas, ideas developed by peop
25 or 30 years younger than him. And an enterprise like Bourba
would like to be eternal [...]."
Thus most of the founding members left around 1956-1958, an
the fifty year rule was retained in the following years. In some sens
Bourbaki is eternally young! However, the retirement of a memb
does not mean that he is entirely cut off from the active member
since for example the retired members continue to receive La Trib
("The Tribe"), the group's internal newsletter describing the procee
ings of its conferences.
In Bourbaki's sixty-five years of existence, the group has involve
about forty members, almost all of which were French and studen
of the ENS. Among the exceptions (who all spoke French) are Samu
Eilenberg, an American of Polish origin who founded category theo
with Saunders MacLane around 1942 and collaborated with Bourba
for fifteen years until 1966; Armand Borel, a Swiss living in th
United States and a member for twenty years until 1973; and Serg
Lang, an American of French origin.
In addition to the mathematicians already cited, notable membe
of Bourbaki include Arnaud Beauville (b. 1947), Claude Chabau
(1910-1990), Alain Connes (b. 1947), Jacques Dixmier (b. 1924
Adrien Douady (b. 1935), Roger Godement (b. 1921), Alexand
Grothendieck (b. 1928), Jean-Louis Koszul (b. 1921), Charles Pis
(1909-1984), Pierre Samuel, and Bernard Teissier. It would be diff
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