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British Industrial History

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Paul Painleve

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Monsieur Paul Painleve (1863-1933)

1933 Obituary[1]


In M. Paul Painleve, whose death on October 29 is announced from Paris, France loses a son distinguished at once as philosopher, mathematician and statesman. Born in 1863, the son of a lithographic draughtsman, Painleve’s exceptional intelligence attracted the attention and aid of his master at the Ecole Primaire, who devoted himself to forwarding the interests of his brilliant pupil. A distinguished record at the Ecole Normale Supdrieure, led to his appointment to a professorship at Lille in 1887, and five years later to a chair at the Sorbonne. His mathematical researches led, in 1900, to his election to the Academie des Sciences, by which be became the youngest member of the Institute. In 1904, he was appointed Professor of Mechanics and Engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique. In France, exceptional competence in science or technology is not' the bar to political success that it is commonly found to be in this country.

M. Painleve was elected to the Chamber in 1906, and soon achieved prominence by his efforts to improve the national defences. He subsequently held a Ministerial portfolio on nine occasions, during three of which he was Prime Minister. This later post he held during some of the most anxious periods of the war, but he was ultimately displaced by Clemenceau. The early experiments on aviation, of which Paris was the centre, greatly attracted M. Painleve, and he was largely responsible for the French Air League, of which he became vice-president. He was one of the first passengers carried by Wilbur Wright during his visit to Paris in 1908. His scientific work led to many invitations to lecture at foreign Universities. His mathematical publications included treatises entitled Lemons sur VIntegration des Equations de la Mecanique, Leqons sur le Frottement, Leqons sur la Theorie Analytique des Equations Diffirentielles."

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