an original modus operandi; a process of regeneration that guar

tees eternal youth; a massive treatise whose 7000 pages broug

fame and influence—all this is Bourbaki. But why the nam

"Bourbaki"? Why so much work devoted to a book initially destine

simply for teaching differential and integral calculus? What is

noteworthy about their treatise anyways? In short, why all the fus

jean Delsarte (1903-1968)

J

ea n Delsart e wa s bor n on Octobe r 1 9, 1 90 3 in

Fourmies , a smal l tow n in Norther n France ,

into a Catholi c famil y wher e the fathe r wa s a

retire d directo r of textil e factories . As Andr e Wei l

write s in a biographica l note , "Delsart e remaine d

faithfu l to his religiou s beliefs , whic h he

combine d wit h rar e open-mindedness . Thi s

certainl y playe d an importan t role in his behavio r

an d wa y of thinking. " Afte r studyin g in Fourmies ,

Treport , an d Paris , Jea n Delsart e obtaine d a

scholarshi p in 191 5 to stud y a t the Lyce e

Corneill e in Rouen , wher e he succeede d

brilliantly . He graduate d in 192 1 an d entere d

I'Ecol e Normal e Superieur e in 1922 . Havin g

earne d his teache r certificatio n in 1 925 , Delsart e

serve d in the militar y an d in 192 6 becam e a

boarde r a t the Fondatio n Thiers , a n institutio n

create d in Pari s in 189 3 to accomodat e youn g

scholar s for thre e year s whil e the y carrie d ou t

research . He staye d ther e onl y a yea r (whic h di d

give him the time to writ e his doctora l thesis )

befor e he wa s hire d as a junio r lecture r in the

Scienc e Facult y a t Nancy . He thu s move d to

Nancy , wher e he woul d remai n fo r muc h of his

career . He marrie d Theres e Sutter , a childhoo d

friend , in 1929 .

Delsart e applie d his energ y to makin g Nanc y

into a n activ e cente r of mathematics . He se t up

goo d connection s wit h Strasbourg , wher e h

friend s Henr i Carta n an d Andr e Wei l ha d bee

teachin g sinc e 193 1 an d 193 3 respectively . A

"Easter n branch " of the Frenc h Mathematica

Societ y graduall y formed , as Delsart e use d h

influenc e to strengthe n mathematic s a t Nancy ,

particula r by the hirin g o f Pau l Dubreil , Jea

Leray , an d Jea n Dieudonne . "Startin g in 1934

Andr e Wei l writes , "Delsart e playe d a significan

role in formin g the tea m o f collaborator s

Nicola s Bourbaki. " In 1937 , he wa s the mai

figur e in the "Meda l Wars, " a revol t agains t th

syste m o f monetar y an d honorar y reward

create d by the physicis t Jea n Perrin , wh o ha

founde d th e CNR S (Centr e Nationa l de

Recherch e Scientifique , the Frenc h scientifi

researc h institute ) an d wa s servin g as the fir

undersecretar y o f stat e fo r scientifi c researc h

the time .

In Septembe r 1939 , Jea n Delsart e wa

mobilized ; as a captain , he commande d a n audi

reconaissanc e battery . He manage d to lea d th

saf e retrea t of his uni t fro m Alsac e to NTmes

wher e he wa s discharged . He taugh t in Grenobl

for the 1940-194 1 academi c yea r to substitut

for the professo r Favard , wh o ha d bee n take

prisoner . He the n returne d secretl y to Nancy

wher e he continue d his teachin g an d research