a trip back in time [and in Rouen]

On Monday, I took part in a celebration of the remarkable career of a former colleague of mine in Rouen, Gérard Grancher, who is retiring after a life-long position as CNRS engineer in the department of maths of the University of Rouen, a job title that tells very little about the numerous facets of his interactions with mathematics, from his handling of all informatics aspects in the laboratory to his support of all colleagues there, including fresh PhD students like me in 1985!, to his direction of the CNRS lab in 2006 and 2007 at a time of deep division and mistrust, to his numerous collaborations on statistical projects with local actors, to his Norman federalism in bringing the maths departments of Caen and Rouen into a regional federation, to an unceasing activism to promote maths in colleges and high schools and science fairs all around Normandy, to his contributions to professional training in statistics for CNRS agents, and much, much more… Which explains why the science auditorium of the University of Rouen was packed with mathematicians and high schools maths teachers and friends! (The poster of the day was made by Gérard’s accomplices in vulgarisation, Élise Janvresse and Thierry Delarue, based on a sample of points randomly drawn from Gérard’s picture, maybe using a determinantal process, and the construction of a travelling salesman path over those points.)

This was a great day with mostly vulgarisation talks (including one about Rasmus’ socks..!) and reminiscences about Gérard’s carreer at Rouen. As I had left the university in 2000 to move to Paris-Dauphine, this was a moving day as well, as I met with old friends I had not seen for ages, including our common PhD advisor, Jean-Pierre Raoult.

This trip back in time was also an opportunity to (re-)visit the beautifully preserved medieval centre of Rouen, with its wooden houses, Norman-style, the numerous churches, including Monet‘s cathedral, the Justice Hall… Last time I strolled those streets, George Casella was visiting!

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