Marcel-Paul Schützenberger bigraphy, stories - French mathematician

Marcel-Paul Schützenberger : biography

24 October 1920 - 29 July 1996

Marcel-Paul "Marco" Schützenberger (October 24, 1920 – July 29, 1996) was a French mathematician and Doctor of Medicine. His work had impact across the fields of formal language, combinatorics, and information theory.Wilf, Herbert et al., "," Electronic Journal of Combinatorics, served from University of Pennsylvania Dept. of Mathematics Server, article dated 12 October 1996, retrieved from WWW on 4 November 2006. In addition to his formal results in mathematics, he was "deeply involved in [a] struggle against the votaries of [neo-]Darwinism",Foata, Dominique, "In Memoriam", op. cit. a stance which has resulted in some mixed reactions from his peers and from critics of his stance on evolution. Several notable theorems and objects in mathematics bear his name (for example Schutzenberger group). Paul Schützenberger was his great-grandfather.


  • The character "Dr. Schütz" in Boris Vian's 1948 novel, Et on tuera tous les affreux, is said to have been inspired by Schützenberger.See:

Contributions to mathematics and linguistics

Schützenberger's second doctorate was awarded in 1953 from Université Paris III.Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul, Contributions Contributions aux applications statistiques de la théorie de l'information, Doctoral thesis, Publications de l'Institut de Statistique de l'Université de Paris 3, 3-117, 1954. This work, developed from earlier resultsVille, Jean & Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul, "Les opérations des mathématiques pures sont toutes des fonctions logiques," Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Sciences, 232, pp. 206-207, 1951. is counted amongst the early influential French academic work in information theory. His later impact in both linguistics and combinatorics is reflected by two theorems in formal linguistics (the Chomsky–Schützenberger theoremChomsky, Noam & Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul "The Algebraic Theory of Context-Free Languages," in Computer Programming and Formal Systems, P. Braffort and D. Hirschberg (eds.), North Holland, pp. 118-161, 1963. and the Kleene-Schützenberger Theorem), and one in combinatorics (the Schützenberger theorem). With Alain Lascoux, Schützenberger is credited with the foundation of the notion of the plactic monoid,Lascoux, Alain & Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul, "Le monoïde plaxique," in Noncommutative structures in algebra and geometric combinatorics (Naples, 1978), volume 109 of Quad. Ricerca Sci., pp. 129–156, CNR, Rome, Italy, 1981. reflected in the name of the combinatorial structure called by some the Lascoux–Schützenberger tree.

The mathematician Dominique Perrin credited Schützenberger with "deeply [influencing] the theory of semigroups", and "deep results on rational functions and transducers," amongst other impacts on mathematics.

Offices, honors, and recognitions

Professorships and other teaching
  • Professor in the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Poitiers (1957–1963)
  • Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard University (1961–1962)
  • Director of Research at the CNRS (1963–1964)
  • Professor at the University of Paris (1964–1970)
  • Professor in the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Paris VII (1970-until his death in 1996)
National honors
  • In 1988, after having been a Correspondant since 1979, Schützenberger was made a full Membre of French Academy of Sciences.
Posthumous recognitions

After his death, two journals in theoretical mathematics dedicated issues to Schützenberger's memory. He was commemorated in this manner by Theoretical Computer Science in 1998"Special issue: papers dedicated to the memory of Marcel-Paul Schützenberger", Theoretical Computer Science, Nivat, M. & Perrin, Dominique (eds.), Vol. 204, Issues 1-2, September 1998. and again by the International Journal of Algebra and Computation in 1999."Special Issue: Dedicated to the Memory of Marcel-Paul Schützenberger," International Journal of Algebra and Computation, Vol. 9, Nos. 3-4, June & August 1999. Issue at URL:

Living octopus

Living octopus

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