Famous Mathematicians from France

List of notable or famous mathematicians from France, with bios and photos, including the top mathematicians born in France and even some popular mathematicians who immigrated to France. If you're trying to find out the names of famous French mathematicians then this list is the perfect resource for you. These mathematicians are among the most prominent in their field, and information about each well-known mathematician from France is included when available.

List people include Benoit Mandelbrot, Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet and many more.

This historic mathematicians from France list can help answer the questions "Who are some French mathematicians of note?" and "Who are the most famous mathematicians from France?" These prominent mathematicians of France may or may not be currently alive, but what they all have in common is that they're all respected French mathematicians.

Use this list of renowned French mathematicians to discover some new mathematicians that you aren't familiar with. Don't forget to share this list by clicking one of the social media icons at the top or bottom of the page. {#nodes}
Ranked by
  • René Descartes
    Dec. at 53 (1596-1650)
    • Birthplace: Descartes, Indre-et-Loire, France
    René Descartes ( day-KART, also UK: DAY-kart, French: [ʁəne dekaʁt] (listen); Latinized: Renatus Cartesius; adjectival form: Cartesian ; 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. A native of the Kingdom of France, he spent about 20 years (1629–1649) of his life in the Dutch Republic after serving for a while in the Dutch States Army of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. One of the most notable intellectual figures of the Dutch Golden Age, Descartes is also widely regarded as one of the founders of modern philosophy. Many elements of Descartes's philosophy have precedents in late Aristotelianism, the revived Stoicism of the 16th century, or in earlier philosophers like Augustine. In his natural philosophy, he differed from the schools on two major points: first, he rejected the splitting of corporeal substance into matter and form; second, he rejected any appeal to final ends, divine or natural, in explaining natural phenomena. In his theology, he insists on the absolute freedom of God's act of creation. Refusing to accept the authority of previous philosophers, Descartes frequently set his views apart from those of his predecessors. In the opening section of the Passions of the Soul, an early modern treatise on emotions, Descartes goes so far as to assert that he will write on this topic "as if no one had written on these matters before". His best known philosophical statement is "I think, therefore I am" (French: Je pense, donc je suis; Latin: Ego cogito, ergo sum), found in Discourse on the Method (1637; written in French and Latin) and Principles of Philosophy (1644; written in Latin).Descartes laid the foundation for 17th-century continental rationalism, later advocated by Spinoza and Leibniz, and was later opposed by the empiricist school of thought consisting of Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Leibniz, Spinoza, and Descartes were all well-versed in mathematics as well as philosophy, and Descartes and Leibniz contributed greatly to science as well. Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes's influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry—used in the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution.
  • Blaise Pascal
    Dec. at 39 (1623-1662)
    • Birthplace: Clermont-Ferrand, France
    Blaise Pascal ( pa-SKAL, also UK: -⁠SKAHL, PASK-əl, -⁠al, US: pah-SKAHL, French: [blɛz paskal]; 19 June 1623 – 19 August 1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen. Pascal's earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum by generalising the work of Evangelista Torricelli. Pascal also wrote in defence of the scientific method. In 1642, while still a teenager, he started some pioneering work on calculating machines. After three years of effort and 50 prototypes, he built 20 finished machines (called Pascal's calculators and later Pascalines) over the following 10 years, establishing him as one of the first two inventors of the mechanical calculator.Pascal was an important mathematician, helping create two major new areas of research: he wrote a significant treatise on the subject of projective geometry at the age of 16, and later corresponded with Pierre de Fermat on probability theory, strongly influencing the development of modern economics and social science. Following Galileo Galilei and Torricelli, in 1647, he rebutted Aristotle's followers who insisted that nature abhors a vacuum. Pascal's results caused many disputes before being accepted. In 1646, he and his sister Jacqueline identified with the religious movement within Catholicism known by its detractors as Jansenism. Following a religious experience in late 1654, he began writing influential works on philosophy and theology. His two most famous works date from this period: the Lettres provinciales and the Pensées, the former set in the conflict between Jansenists and Jesuits. In that year, he also wrote an important treatise on the arithmetical triangle. Between 1658 and 1659, he wrote on the cycloid and its use in calculating the volume of solids. Throughout his life, Pascal was in frail health, especially after the age of 18; he died just two months after his 39th birthday.
  • Benoit Mandelbrot
    Dec. at 85 (1924-2010)
    • Birthplace: Second Polish Republic, Warsaw
    Benoit B.  Mandelbrot  (20 November 1924 – 14 October 2010) was a Polish-born, French and American mathematician and polymath with broad interests in the practical sciences, especially regarding what he labeled as "the art of roughness" of physical phenomena and "the uncontrolled element in life". He referred to himself as a "fractalist" and is recognized for his contribution to the field of fractal geometry, which included coining the word "fractal", as well as developing a theory of "roughness and self-similarity" in nature.In 1936, while he was a child, Mandelbrot's family emigrated to France from Warsaw, Poland. After World War II ended, Mandelbrot studied mathematics, graduating from universities in Paris and the United States and receiving a master's degree in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology. He spent most of his career in both the United States and France, having dual French and American citizenship. In 1958, he began a 35-year career at IBM, where he became an IBM Fellow, and periodically took leaves of absence to teach at Harvard University. At Harvard, following the publication of his study of U.S. commodity markets in relation to cotton futures, he taught economics and applied sciences. Because of his access to IBM's computers, Mandelbrot was one of the first to use computer graphics to create and display fractal geometric images, leading to his discovering the Mandelbrot set in 1980. He showed how visual complexity can be created from simple rules. He said that things typically considered to be "rough", a "mess" or "chaotic", like clouds or shorelines, actually had a "degree of order". His math and geometry-centered research career included contributions to such fields as statistical physics, meteorology, hydrology, geomorphology, anatomy, taxonomy, neurology, linguistics, information technology, computer graphics, economics, geology, medicine, physical cosmology, engineering, chaos theory, econophysics, metallurgy and the social sciences.Toward the end of his career, he was Sterling Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Yale University, where he was the oldest professor in Yale's history to receive tenure. Mandelbrot also held positions at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Université Lille Nord de France, Institute for Advanced Study and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. During his career, he received over 15 honorary doctorates and served on many science journals, along with winning numerous awards. His autobiography, The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick, was published posthumously in 2012.
  • Évariste Galois
    Dec. at 20 (1811-1832)
    • Birthplace: Bourg-la-Reine, France
    Évariste Galois (; French: [evaʁist ɡalwa]; 25 October 1811 – 31 May 1832) was a French mathematician and political activist. While still in his teens, he was able to determine a necessary and sufficient condition for a polynomial to be solvable by radicals, thereby solving a problem standing for 350 years. His work laid the foundations for Galois theory and group theory, two major branches of abstract algebra, and the subfield of Galois connections. He died at age 20 from wounds suffered in a duel.
    • Birthplace: Ribemont, France
    Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis of Condorcet (French: [maʁi ʒɑ̃n‿ɑ̃twan nikola də kaʁita kɔ̃dɔʁsɛ]; 17 September 1743 – 29 March 1794), known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher and mathematician. His ideas, including support for a liberal economy, free and equal public instruction, constitutional government, and equal rights for women and people of all races, have been said to embody the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment and Enlightenment rationalism. He died in prison after a period of flight from French Revolutionary authorities.
  • Pierre de Fermat
    Dec. at 63 (1601-1665)
    • Birthplace: Beaumont-de-Lomagne, France
    Pierre de Fermat (French: [pjɛːʁ də fɛʁma]) (between 31 October and 6 December 1607 – 12 January 1665) was a French lawyer at the Parlement of Toulouse, France, and a mathematician who is given credit for early developments that led to infinitesimal calculus, including his technique of adequality. In particular, he is recognized for his discovery of an original method of finding the greatest and the smallest ordinates of curved lines, which is analogous to that of differential calculus, then unknown, and his research into number theory. He made notable contributions to analytic geometry, probability, and optics. He is best known for his Fermat's principle for light propagation and his Fermat's Last Theorem in number theory, which he described in a note at the margin of a copy of Diophantus' Arithmetica.