”I can offer myself up as an example to parents everywhere worrying desperately over their child's inability to triumph over the first basic problems of arithmetic, because in arithmetic, even at the start of middle school, I was always among the worst in my class.”
A comforting message from a man who received the highest marks on the entrance exams for the Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Normale (two of the best universities in France). In taking the name of Jacques Hadamard, the mathematics foundation of the Paris-Saclay campus places itself under the wing of a character exceptional for his accomplishments as wells as for the richness and depth of his scientific work.
The life of Jacques Hadamard (1865–1963) stretched from the reign of Napoleon III to the presidency of Charles de Gaulle. Jacques Hadamard was involved, often painfully, in many of the great events of the times, including the Dreyfus affair and the two world wars during which he lost three sons and, from 1940 to 1944, had to flee to the United States in order to evade the threat of Nazism in Europe. These events were the seeds of Jacque's Hadamard's later political activity and pacifist stands.
At a young age Jacques Hadamard excelled in both Latin and Greek, but in the end it was towards mathematics that he turned. After receiving the highest mark in the entrance exams for both the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Normale in 1884, he chose to commence his studies at the latter, where he studied under Jules Tannery and Emile Picard. In 1892, Jacques Hadamard obtained his PhD with a thesis on functions defined by their Taylor series, and then received the Mathematical Sciences Award for his work on entire functions. His proof of the prime number theorem in 1896 guaranteed his prominent position in the history of mathematics. In 1909 Jacques Hadamard was made a professor at the Collège de France and in 1912 he was elected as a member of the Académie des Sciences.
Jacques Hadamard's body of mathematical work is impressive both in its depth and in its breadth. In particular, his work transformed the theory of functions, contributed to the creation of functional analysis, and breathed new life into the theory of partial differential equations. Moreover, the influence of his legacy on the development of analysis in the 20th century and on the Bourbaki group is impossible to overstate.