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
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