Archive for Bibliothèque Nationale

The Grothendieck papers

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2016 by xi'an

Running back towards Carnon, along the expressway (!), with pink flamingoes in the distance, June 15, 2012Following the death of the mathematician Alexandre Grothendieck in 2014, his former maths department at the University of Montpellier decided to digitise in very high resolution the 28,000 pages of notes he had left to the department. Under the supervision of Jean-Michel Marin, Head of the said department! However, thanks to the French laws governing succession, those notes cannot be posted on-line without the authorisation of the five children of Grothendieck, who keep a moral right on those notes, even though they were given to the department. Grothendieck’s children want to recover all their father’s notes—which amount to more than 90,000 handwritten pages—presumably towards a bulk sale to a prestigious American university, but the succession is in limbo while the monetary value of those notes is not ascertained. And the digitised notes are stuck in this legal no man’s land as well. It is fairly ironical that those notes are at the centre of a financial conundrum, when Grothendieck’s anarchist principles led him to refuse awards and positions and to lead a recluse and frugal life in an isolated mountain village. And to prohibit the publication of those notes… Jean-Michel remains confident though that a solution can soon be reached between Grothendieck’s children, the University, the IHES, and the French National Library. I hope those notes can be made public, so that anyone could consult them. In paper or digitised format. Even though most of these pages may just be unexploitable. But at least they will be available rather than stuck in a storage for another 25 years.