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André Lichnerowicz : biography

January 21, 1915 - December 11, 1998

André Lichnerowicz (January 21, 1915 – December 11, 1998) was a noted French differential geometer and mathematical physicist of Polish descent.


His grandfather fought in the Polish resistance against the Prussians. Forced to flee Poland in 1860, he finally settled in France, where he married a woman from Auvergne. Lichnerowicz's father held agrégation in classics, while his mother, a descendant of paper makers, was one of the first women to earn the agrégation in mathematics. André attended the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, gaining agrégation in 1936. After two years, he entered the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) as one of the first researchers recruited by this institution.

Lichnerowicz studied differential geometry under Élie Cartan. His doctoral dissertation, completed in 1939 under the supervision of Georges Darmois, concerned what are now called the Lichnerowicz matching conditions in general relativity.

His academic career began under the cloud of German occupation, during World War II. He taught at the University of Strasbourg, which was moved to Clermont Ferrand and only returned to Strasbourg in 1945, where he taught until 1949. From 1949-1952 he taught at the University of Paris. In 1952 he was appointed to the Collège de France, where he taught until his retirement in 1986. He was made a member of the Académie des Sciences in 1963.

His Ph.D. students included Thierry Aubin, Edmond Bonan, Marcel Berger, Yvonne Choquet-Bruhat, Yvette Kosmann, and Thibault Damour.

While pursuing an active research career, Lichnerowicz made time for pedagogy. In 1967 the French government created the Lichnerowicz Commission made up of 18 teachers of mathematics. The commission recommended a curriculum based on set theory and logic with an early introduction to mathematical structures. It recommended introduction to complex numbers for seniors in high school, less computation-based instruction, and more development from premises. These reforms have been called a new math and have been repeated internationally. See Mashaal (2006).

Works in English translation

  • Elements of Tensor Calculus, John Wiley and Sons, 1962.
  • Relativistic Hydrodynamics and Magnetohydrodynamics, W. A. Benjamin, 1967.
  • Linear Algebra and Analysis Holden Day, 1967. (Algèbre et analyse linéaires, Paris, Masson, 1947)
  • Geometry of Groups of Transformations, Leyden: Noordhoff, [1958] 1976. (Géométrie des groupes de transformations, Paris, Dunod, 1958)
  • Global Theory of Connection and Holonomy Groups Leyden: Noordhoff, [1955] 1976. (Théorie globale des connexions et des groupes d'holonomie, Rome, Edizioni Cremonese, 1955),
  • Magnetohydrodynamics: Waves and Shock Waves in Curved Space-Time Kluwer, Springer 1994. ISBN 0-7923-2805-1
  • with Alexandre Favre, Henri Guitton, and Jean Guitton, Chaos and Determinism, Johns Hopkins, 1995.
  • with Alain Connes, and Marco Schutzenberger, Triangle of Thoughts, American Mathematical Society, 2000.


  • Cahen, M.; Lichnerowicz, André; Flato, M., eds., Differential Geometry and Relativity: A Volume in Honour of André Lichnerowicz on His 60th Birthday, Reidel, 1976. ISBN 90-277-0745-6
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