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History of Inria

Jacques-Louis Lions: a champion of computer science research

Portrait Jacques-Louis Lions © INRIA

A graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure and an eminent mathematician, professor and administrator, Jacques-Louis Lions believes that it makes no sense to separate pure mathematics from applied mathematics.

A professor at the Faculty of Sciences in Nancy, the Ecole Polytechnique and the Collège de France, Jacques-Louis Lions is a specialist in the theory of partial differential equations. During his seminar on numerical analysis, he laid the foundations for a new school of applied mathematics, a discipline that was somewhat looked down upon by mathematicians at the time.

He joined IRIA at its very start, showing a clear commitment to the institute and the discipline. As the head of the numerical computing department, he was anxious that his research should not be detached from the industrial world. A subscriber to John Von Neuman's view on the scientific applications of computers, he constantly stressed the need for mathematics and computing to work together. A prominent figure within the institute and respected by his peers, he was put in charge of LABORIA, the computer science and control research laboratory, in 1973. This introduced applied mathematics to IRIA.

Chairman of IRIA from 1980, Jacques-Louis Lions skilfully guided the institute through a number of changes and reaffirmed its model from both a scientific and an institutional point of view. In so doing, he reaffirmed the need for strong relations with industry and guided the creation of the three regional research centres in Sophia-Antipolis, Rennes and Grenoble. He left his post as Chairman in 1984 to join the CNES. An internationally renowned mathematician and a member of the institute since 1973, he won the John Von Neumann prize in 1986 and chaired the French Academy of Sciences in 1997-1998.

Keywords: Applied Mathematics LABORIA Decentralization