Francis Comets (1956-2022)

Francis Comets, with whom I taught at Polytechnique in the early 2000’s, and whom I highly respected, has most sadly died on June 6. Here is a eulogy written by Patrick Cattiaux, Giambattista Giacomin, and Lorenzo Zambotti, on the site of the Société Mathématique de France (translated from the French).

Francis was a rare person. Combining both a form of conformism and a surprising originality, he marked all those who knew him: colleagues, relatives, friends. A former student of the École Normale Supérieure de Saint Cloud, in 1987 he defended a Thèse d’État at the University of Paris Sud on problems of large deviations in connection with models of statistical physics. Very quickly he demonstrated his appetite for various fields combining probability, statistics and physics. Just check out his list of publications. Francis will remain as one of the pioneers in France in the study of models in random environments for which his contributions are internationally recognized, symbolized by the Ito prize from the Bernoulli Society received in 2015. Beyond a leading scientific activity, Francis has been for forty years a major player in the structuring of mathematics in France. First assistant at the University of Paris X, then Professor at Marne la Vallée and finally at Paris 7 (which over time became Paris Diderot and now Université Paris Cité), he has, during his academic career, spared no effort in serving the community. Director of the Laboratory of Probability and Random Models, co-founder of the Fondation Sciences Mathématiques de Paris, part-time professor at the École Polytechnique, he has devoted a very large part of his time to the French mathematical community. His students and his colleagues have found in Francis listening, empathy, competence and that hint of surprise that leads to curiosity. His friends and loved ones will express the deep and personal feelings that bound them to a rare being, as mentioned above. The French mathematical community joins in the grief of his family and friends at such a painful time.

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