Mathematician:Mathematicians/Sorted By Nation/France

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For more comprehensive information on the lives and works of mathematicians through the ages, see the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, created by John J. O'Connor and Edmund F. Robertson.

The army of those who have made at least one definite contribution to mathematics as we know it soon becomes a mob as we look back over history; 6,000 or 8,000 names press forward for some word from us to preserve them from oblivion, and once the bolder leaders have been recognised it becomes largely a matter of arbitrary, illogical legislation to judge who of the clamouring multitude shall be permitted to survive and who be condemned to be forgotten.'
-- Eric Temple Bell: Men of Mathematics, 1937, Victor Gollancz, London

Contents

France

1301 - 1600

Nicole Oresme (c. 1323 – 1382)

French philosopher and mathematician best known for his many writings.

Known for being critical of the writings of Aristotle, an unusual philosophical position for his day.

Defined the power of a number to a non-integral exponent.
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Nicolas Chuquet (1445 or 1455 – 1488 or c. 1500)

French mathematician who first treated powers of unknowns systematically.

Inventor of the words billion for $10^{12}$, trillion for $10^{18}$, and so on.
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Charles de Bouvelles (c. 1475 – c. 1567)

French mathematician and philosopher who introduced the hypotrochoid as a technique for Squaring the Circle.

It is suggested by some sources that he was also the first to investigate the cycloid.

Credited with finding the first odd abundant number to be discovered: $45 \, 045$.
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Oronce Finé (1494 – 1555)

French mathematician and cartographer who was mainly a populariser and teacher.
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Peter Ramus (1515 – 1572)

French logician, humanist and political reformer who fell victim to religious war.
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François Viète (1540 – 1603)

French amateur mathematician, trained in law, who became a privy councillor under Henry IV of France.

Contributed to many of the early developments of trigonometry and algebra.

Pioneered the use of letters in algebraic equations.

One of the first to use decimal fractions as a matter of course in his published works.
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Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540 – 1609)

French religious leader and scholar

Expanding the notion of classical history from Greek and ancient Roman history to include Persian, Babylonian, Jewish and ancient Egyptian history.

Also had the ambition to be a mathematician, and made a failed attempt to square the circle.
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Pierre Hérigone (1580 – 1643)

French mathematician and astronomer of Basque origin.

Taught in Paris for most of his life.

His greatest influence was his invention of notation.
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Claude Gaspard Bachet de Méziriac (1581 – 1638)

Also known as Claude (Gaspar) Bachet.

First to discuss the solution of indeterminate equations by means of continued fractions.

First member to hold Seat 13 of the Académie Française.
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Étienne Pascal (1588 – 1679)

French tax official and lawyer who also had an interest in science and mathematics.

Noted, and respected, for being unusually honest and honourable in his demanding professional position.

Investigated what is now known as the Limaçon of Pascal.

Most famous, however, for being the father of Blaise Pascal.
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Marin Mersenne (1588 – 1648)

French theologian, philosopher, mathematician and music theorist.

Most famous for his work with Mersenne primes.

Claimed in $1644$ that the only primes $p \le 257$ for which $2^p - 1$ is prime are $2, 3, 5, 7, 13, 17, 19, 31, 67, 127$ and $257$. Considering the tools he had at his disposal, he was uncannily accurate.

The first to determine the speed of sound in air.
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Girard Desargues (1591 – 1661)

French mathematician who is considered to be one of the founders of projective geometry.
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Albert Girard (1595 – 1632)

Professional French lutenist who also studied mathematics, working in the fields of algebra, trigonometry and arithmetic.

Gave an inductive formula for the Fibonacci numbers.

First stated in $1632$ that every prime of the form $4 k + 1$ is the sum of two squares in only one way.
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René Descartes (1596 – 1650)

French mathematician and philosopher who is supposed to have invented the Cartesian coordinate system, and thence the field of analytic geometry.
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Pierre de Fermat (c. 1600 – 1665)

French lawyer, also an amateur mathematician famous for lots of things. Especially:

Although he claimed to have found proofs of many theorems, few of these have survived.
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1601 - 1700

Gilles Personne de Roberval (1602 – 1675)

French mathematician whose work was a precursor to calculus.

Worked on the quadrature of surfaces and the cubature of solids.
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Pierre de Carcavi (c. 1603 – 1684)

French mathematician who was also a secretary of the National Library of France under Louis XIV.

Noted for his correspondence with Pierre de Fermat, Blaise Pascal, Christiaan Huygens, Galileo Galilei, Marin Mersenne, Evangelista Torricelli and René Descartes.
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Bernard Frénicle de Bessy (c. 1604 – 1674)

French mathematician who wrote numerous mathematical papers, mainly in number theory and combinatorics.

Described all $880$ essentially different normal magic squares of order $4$.

Invented the Frénicle standard form, a standard representation of magic squares

Solved many problems created by Pierre de Fermat.

Discovered the cube property of the number $1729$ (Ramanujan number), later referred to as a taxicab number.
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Antoine Gombaud (1607 – 1684)

Antoine Gombaud, Chevalier de Méré was a French gambler, writer, philosopher and amateur mathematician best known for his work in probability theory.
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Antoine Arnauld (1612 – 1694)

French Roman Catholic theologian, philosopher and mathematician.
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Claude Perrault (1613 – 1688)

French architect, best known for his participation in the design of the east façade of the Louvre in Paris.

Also achieved success as a physician and anatomist, and as an author.

Wrote treatises on physics and natural history.

The first to investigate the tractrix, which he did in $1670$.
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Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662)

French mathematician and philosopher who explored probability theory and projective geometry.

Most famous for the construction now commonly known as Pascal's Triangle.
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Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625 – 1712)

Italian/French mathematician, astronomer, engineer, and astrologer.

Most of his important discoveries were in the field of astronomy.

Not to be confused with his son, also called Jean-Dominique Cassini.
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Jacques Ozanam (1640 – 1718)

French mathematician renowned for the books he wrote, and for his philanthropy.

Published a set of trigonometric and logarithmic tables more accurate than any of the existing ones.

Identified three pairs of triangular numbers whose sum and difference are also triangular.
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Michel Rolle (1652 – 1719)

French mathematician best known for Rolle's Theorem.

Also noted for popularising the $n$th root sign.
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Pierre Varignon (1654 – 1722)

French mathematician whose principal contributions were to graphic statics and mechanics.

Friend of Isaac Newton, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, and the Bernoulli family.

One of the earliest and strongest French advocate of infinitesimal calculus.

Exposed the errors in Michel Rolle's critique thereof.
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Guillaume de l'Hôpital (1661 – 1704)

Shortened version of his full name and title, which was: Guillaume-François-Antoine Marquis de l'Hôpital, Marquis de Sainte-Mesme, Comte d'Entremont and Seigneur d'Ouques-la-Chaise.

French mathematician best known for L'Hôpital's Rule, although this was in fact discovered by Johann Bernoulli.
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Abraham de Moivre (1667 – 1754)

French mathematician best known for De Moivre's Formula.

Also noted for his work on the normal distribution and probability theory.
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Pierre Raymond de Montmort (1678 – 1719)

French mathematician (also known as Pierre Rémond de Montmort) who worked in probability theory.

The first to introduce the combinatorial study of derangements.

Also known for naming Pascal's triangle after Blaise Pascal, calling it "Table de M. Pascal pour les combinaisons."
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Pierre Bouguer (1698 – 1758)

French mathematician, geophysicist, geodesist and astronomer.

The first known discoverer of what is now generally known as the Beer-Lambert-Bouguer Law.
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1701 - 1800

Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707 – 1781)

French naturalist, mathematician, cosmologist, and encyclopédiste.

Translated Isaac Newton's works on calculus into French.

His claim to fame in the world of mathematics stems from his thought experiment Buffon's Needle.
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Alexis Claude Clairaut (1713 – 1765)

Sometimes reported as de Clairault.

French mathematician, astronomer and geophysicist. Worked out the shape of the Earth.

Best known in mathematics for Clairaut's (differential) equation.
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Jean le Rond d'Alembert (1717 – 1783)

Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert was a French mathematician, physicist and philosopher best known for his contribution to the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra - he produced a flawed proof which was later patched up by Gauss.
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Jean-Étienne Montucla (1725 – 1799)

French mathematician and civil servant best known now for his work on the history of mathematics.

Wrote the first comprehensive history of mathematics, uncompleted at the time of his death.
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Étienne Bézout (1730 – 1783)

French mathematician best known for his work in number theory and algebra.

Also the author of widely-used textbooks.
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Joseph Jérôme Lefrançois de Lalande (1732 – 1807)

Jérôme Lalande was a French astronomer and writer.
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Alexandre-Théophile Vandermonde (1735 – 1796)

French mathematician and musician mainly active in the fields of combinatorics.

Referred to by some as "the founder of the theory of determinants".

Best known nowadays for the Vandermonde Determinant and the Chu-Vandermonde Identity.
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Joseph Louis Lagrange (1736 – 1813)

Italian-born French mathematician who made big advances in the fields of the calculus of variations and analytical mechanics.

Contributed to number theory and algebra.

Extended a lot of the fields established by Euler, and in turn laid down the groundwork for later explorations by Gauss and Abel.
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Gaspard Monge (1746 – 1818)

French mathematician who invented the field of descriptive geometry.
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Pierre-Simon de Laplace (1749 – 1827)

French mathematician and astronomer whose work greatly influenced the development of the mathematics governing astronomy.

Pioneered the field of mathematical physics.
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Adrien-Marie Legendre (1752 – 1833)

French mathematician, focusing in the fields of statistics, abstract algebra, number theory and analysis.

His work formed the basis for work by many others, including Gauss and Abel.

Gave an early proof of Fermat's Last Theorem for $n = 5$.

Attempted a proof of the Law of Quadratic Reciprocity in $1785$, but it was flawed. It was eventually proven by Gauss in $1798$.
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Marc-Antoine Parseval (1755 – 1836)

French mathematician, most famous for what is now known as Parseval's Theorem, which presaged the unitarity of the Fourier transform.
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Louis François Antoine Arbogast (1759 – 1803)

French mathematician, and later politician, who pioneered the concept of discontinuous functions, further developing the work of Leonhard Paul Euler in this field.

This work was developed further by Augustin Louis Cauchy.

The first to conceive the calculus as a set of operational symbols.

Also the first to publish what is now known as Faà di Bruno's Formula.

Responsible for the law which introduced the decimal metric system to France.
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Christian Kramp (1760 – 1826)

French mathematician working mainly with factorials.

His main claim to fame is for being the one to introduce the Factorial sign: $!$
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Joseph Fourier (1768 – 1830)

Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier was a French mathematician and physicist best known for the Fourier series and his application of this technique to the problem of heat conduction.

Also developed the technique of dimensional analysis, and discovered the greenhouse effect.
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François Joseph Servois (1768 – 1847)

French mathematician and military officer.

Worked in the fields of projective geometry, functional analysis and complex analysis.

First introduced (in 1814) the concept of commutativity which till then had generally been taken for granted in all fields of mathematics.
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Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821)

Amateur French mathematician also famous as a military and political leader of France (in the same way that Henry Tudor was an amateur singer/songwriter whose hits included Greensleeves).
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Sophie Germain (1776 – 1831)

Marie-Sophie Germain was a French mathematician who contributed to differential geometry and number theory, and provided some insights into aspects of Fermat's Last Theorem.

She was completely self-taught (as women were not encouraged to do that sort of thing in those days) and contributed her early work under the pseudonym Monsieur LeBlanc.

Had Gauss and Lagrange as mentors, but apart from that, suffered throughout her career from prejudice against her gender.
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Louis Poinsot (1777 – 1859)

French mathematician and physicist best known for his work in geometry and the embryonic field of graph theory.

Invented the field of geometrical mechanics.
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Siméon-Denis Poisson (1781 – 1840)

French mathematician and physicist best known for his work in probability theory and differential equations.
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Charles Julien Brianchon (1783 – 1864)

French mathematician and chemist who took up a career in Napoleon's artillery.

With Jean-Victor Poncelet, proved the Nine Point Circle Theorem in $1820$.
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Jacques Philippe Marie Binet (1786 – 1856)

French mathematician best known for his contribution to the Binet-Cauchy Identity.

Recognized as the first to define the rules for matrix multiplication.
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Dominique François Jean Arago (1786 – 1853)

French mathematician, physicist, astronomer and politician.

Worked in the field of optics with Augustin Fresnel.

First person to construct an electromagnet.

As an active practical astronomer and geographer in troubled political times, once found himself arrested on charges of espionage.
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Jean-Victor Poncelet (1788 – 1867)

French mathematician and engineer who revived the field of projective geometry.

With Charles Julien Brianchon, proved the Nine Point Circle Theorem in $1820$.
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Augustin Louis Cauchy (1789 – 1857)

French Engineer and mathematician, from a suburb of Paris, which at the time was home to many leading mathematicians.

Wrote seven books and more than 700 papers in various fields of mathematics.

Made significant contributions in number theory, the theory of determinants, eigenvalues, ordinary and partial differential equations, permutation groups, and the foundation of calculus.

Famous for founding the theory of functions of a complex variable.

Argued by some as the founder of group theory.
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Michel Chasles (1793 – 1880)

French mathematician known for his work in projective geometry, as well as for his contributions to harmonic analysis.
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Gabriel Léon Jean Baptiste Lamé (1795 – 1870)

French mathematician who investigated curvilinear coordinate systems.

Studied the series of curves now known as Lamé curves.
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Benjamin Olinde Rodrigues (1795 – 1851)

French banker, mathematician, and social reformer.
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Irénée-Jules Bienaymé (1796 – 1878)

French mathematician mainly working in statistics, whose work can be considered as extending the work of Laplace.
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Pierre Frédéric Sarrus (1798 – 1861)

French mathematician who discovered a mnemonic rule for solving the determinant of a 3-by-3 matrix, named Sarrus' Scheme.

Demonstrated the Fundamental Lemma of the Calculus of Variations.

Discovered Fermat pseudoprimes to base $2$, now known as Sarrus numbers or Poulet numbers.
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Fortuné Landry (1799 – 1895)

French mathematician mainly working in the field of factorization of large integers.
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1801 - 1900

Joseph Liouville (1809 – 1882)

Active in the fields of number theory, complex analysis, differential geometry, topology, mathematical physics and astronomy.

Proved the existence of transcendental numbers.

Contributed the Sturm-Liouville theory to the field of mathematical physics, in collaboration with Charles Sturm.

Pioneered the study of fractional calculus.

There are several theorems named after him, all in different areas of mathematics and physics.
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Évariste Galois (1811 – 1832)

French mathematician famous for dying at the age of 20 as the result of a duel.

Despite his total collected works amounting to a mere 60 pages or so, he had a significant influence in the development of the field of group theory. He was in fact the first person to use the word group in a technical sense.

His innovative approach to the problem of the insolubility of the quintic led to the field known now as Galois theory.
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Pierre Alphonse Laurent (1813 – 1854)

French mathematician and first-rate military and civil engineer best known for his discovery of what is now known as a Laurent series.

Also published works on the theory of light polarization.
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Eugène Charles Catalan (1814 – 1894)

French and Belgian mathematician who is most famous for his work in combinatorics and number theory.
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Claude Séraphin Moret-Blanc (1819 – 1886)

French mathematician who discovered some results in number theory.

Mainly known for the result Positive Integers Equal to Sum of Digits of Cube.
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Pierre Ossian Bonnet (1819 – 1892)

French mathematician who made some important contributions to the differential geometry of surfaces.

Mainly known for the Gauss-Bonnet Theorem.
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Léon-François-Antoine Aurifeuille

French mathematician after whom Aurifeuillian factorizations are named.

Also wrote a number of books.
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Joseph Louis François Bertrand (1822 – 1900)

French mathematician working in the fields of number theory, differential geometry, probability theory, economics and thermodynamics.

He conjectured Bertrand's Postulate, in 1845, that there is at least one prime between $n$ and $2n - 2$ for every $n > 3$. This was proved in 1850 by Chebyshev, and hence it is also known as the Bertrand-Chebyshev Theorem.

Also wrote plenty on the history of mathematics.
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Charles Hermite (1822 – 1901)

French mathematician who did research mainly in the fields of number theory and analysis.

The first to prove that e is transcendental.
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Alphonse Armand Charles Georges Marie de Polignac (1826 – 1862)

French mathematician best known for De Polignac's Formula and Polignac's Conjecture.
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Jean François Théophile Pépin (1826 – 1904)

French mathematician who centred on number theory.
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Eugène Rouché (1832 – 1910)

French mathematician best known for his work in complex analysis and calculus.
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Marie Ennemond Camille Jordan (1838 – 1922)

Camille Jordan was a French mathematician who founded much of the field of group theory.

Also wrote the influential textbook Cours d'Analyse.
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Joseph-Émile Barbier (1839 – 1889)

French astronomer and mathematician, best known for Barbier's Theorem on the perimeter of curves of constant width.
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Émile Michel Hyacinthe Lemoine (1840 – 1912)

French mathematician and civil engineer who worked mainly in geometry.

He is best known for defining the Lemoine point of a triangle.
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Charles-Ange Laisant (1841 – 1920)

French politician and mathematician who published some books and founded some journals.

Determined the number of digits in $9^{9^9}$.
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Édouard Lucas (1842 – 1891)

French mathematician best known for his study of the Fibonacci numbers. As a result of his researches, discovered what are now known as the Lucas numbers.

In $1876$, proved that the Mersenne number $M_{127}$ is prime, and discovered that $M_{67}$ is actually composite.
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Jean-Gaston Darboux (1842 – 1917)

French mathematician who contributed to to geometry and mathematical analysis.

Did considerable important work on linear partial differential equations.
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Paul Tannery (1843 – 1904)

French mathematician and historian best known for his work on the history of Greek mathematics.

Edited the works of Diophantus, Fermat and Descartes.
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Pierre René Jean Baptiste Henri Brocard (1845 – 1922)

French meteorologist and mathematician, in particular a geometer.

Best known for the Brocard points, the Brocard circle and the Brocard triangle.

Also known for the still unsolved Brocard's Problem.
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Achille Marie Gaston Floquet (1847 – 1920)

Gaston Floquet was a French mathematician best known for his work in analysis, especially in theory of differential equations.
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Georges Fontené (1848 – 1928)

French mathematician who worked in geometry, analytic geometry, linear algebra, elliptic functions and elliptic integrals.

Also studied hyperspaces and "courbes gauches".
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François Proth (1852 – 1879)

French farmer who was also a self-taught mathematician.

Known for his analysis of Proth numbers and Proth primes.

Formulated Gilbreath's Conjecture on successive differences of primes, $80$ years before Norman L. Gilbreath, but his proof was incorrect.
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Henri Poincaré (1854 – 1912)

Better known as Henri Poincaré.

French mathematician and philosopher.

Often referred to as "The last universalist", as he was the last one able to master the whole of mathematics at the time. (Since then the field has grown too large.)

Introduced the field of special relativity.
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Charles Émile Picard (1856 – 1941)

French mathematician who made significant advances in the fields of:

Son-in-law of Charles Hermite.
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Édouard Jean-Baptiste Goursat (1858 – 1936)

French mathematician best known for his work in complex analysis.
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Paul Painlevé (1863 – 1933)

French mathematician who worked on differential equations and the emerging new physics.

Later in life became Prime Minister of France.
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Jacques Salomon Hadamard (1865 – 1963)

French mathematician who contributed in the fields of:

Most famous for proving the Prime Number Theorem in 1896, independently of Charles de la Vallée Poussin.
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Charles de la Vallée Poussin (1866 – 1962)

Full name: Charles-Jean Étienne Gustave Nicolas, Baron de la Vallée Poussin.

Belgian mathematician famous for proving the Prime Number Theorem, independently of Jacques Salomon Hadamard in $1896$.
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Élie Joseph Cartan (1869 – 1951)

Influential French mathematician who did fundamental work in the theory of Lie groups and their geometric applications.

Made significant contributions to mathematical physics, differential geometry, and group theory.
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Henri Claudius Rosaris Dulac (1870 – 1955)

French mathematician majoring in differential equations and real analysis.
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Félix Édouard Justin Émile Borel (1871 – 1956)

More usually referred to as Émile Borel.

French mathematician working mainly in measure theory and its applications to probability theory.
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René-Louis Baire (1874 – 1932)

French mathematician who worked mainly on the theory of continuity and irrational numbers.

Most famous for the Baire Category Theorem.
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Henri Léon Lebesgue (1875 – 1941)

French mathematician famous mainly for his work on the theory of integral calculus.
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Pierre Joseph Louis Fatou (1878 – 1929)

French mathematician and astronomer whose main contributions were in the field of analysis.
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Maurice René Fréchet (1878 – 1973)

French mathematician who made considerable advances in topology, and pioneered the concept of metric spaces.
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Victor Michael Jean-Marie Thébault (1882 – 1960)

French mathematician best known for propounding three specific problems in geometry.

Also contributed many problems to various mathematical journals.
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Léon Nicolas Brillouin (1889 – 1969)

French physicist who made contributions to quantum mechanics, radio wave propagation in the atmosphere, solid state physics, and information theory.
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1901 and onward

François Le Lionnais (1901 – 1984)

French chemical engineer and writer, occasionally on mathematics.
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André Weil (1906 – 1998)

French mathematician who known for his foundational work in number theory and algebraic geometry.

Founding member and early leader of the Bourbaki group.
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Claude Chevalley (1909 – 1984)

French mathematician who made important contributions to number theory, algebraic geometry, class field theory, finite group theory, and the theory of algebraic groups.

Founding member of the Bourbaki group.
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Roger Apéry (1916 – 1994)

Greek-French mathematician most remembered for Apéry's Theorem.
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Pierre Samuel (1921 – 2009)

French mathematician working mainly in the fields of commutative algebra and algebraic geometry.

A second-generation member of the Bourbaki group.

Best known (and greatly appreciated) for the books he wrote.

Politically active in the spheres of social justice and environmentalism.
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Benoît B. Mandelbrot (1924 – 2010)

French-American mathematician of Polish origin famous for his work on fractals.

The Mandelbrot set is named for him.
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Michel André Kervaire (1927 – 2007)

French mathematician who made significant contributions to topology and algebra.
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Serge Lang (1927 – 2005)

French-American mathematician known for his work in number theory, and for the mathematics textbooks he wrote.

Member of the Bourbaki group.
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Henri J. Nussbaumer (b. 1931 )

French mathematician and engineer who has written a few works on the fast fourier transform.
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Nicolas Bourbaki (established 1935 )

Nicolas Bourbaki is the name given to a group of (mainly) French mathematicians whose aim was to present an account of the entirety of modern mathematics, with an emphasis on rigour and generality.
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Jean-Marc Deshouillers (b. 1946 )

French mathematician specializing in analytic number theory.
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Michel Criton (b. 1947 )

French mathematician who has written a number of books on recreational mathematics.
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Hervé Moulin (b. 1950 )

French mathematician known for his research contributions in mathematical economics, in particular in the fields of mechanism design, social choice, game theory and fair division.
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Jean Tirole (b. 1953 )

French professor of economics who focuses on industrial organization, game theory, banking and finance, and economics and psychology.
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Joel Armengaud (b. 1967 )

Frenchman who found the Mersenne prime $M_{1\ 398\ 269}$.
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Occitania

Joan Francés Fulcònis (c. 1520 – ?)

Joan Francés Fulcònis (also rendered Johan Frances Fulconis) was a mathematician from the area of southern France referred to informally nowadays as Occitania.

Notable for writing one of the earliest mathematics books printed in one of the Occitan dialects, a linguistic group which at the time was subject to political pressure.
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