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Scientific activity


The scientific heritage of IHES

Scientific activity at IHES is organized around the research of permanent professors and also that of invited researchers, who may spend anything from a few days to a few years at the Institute.


Since 1958, recurring or one-off seminars organized by professors and invited researchers have been regular fixtures at IHES.

Mikhail Gromov and Anatole Katok on their way to the library, 1982
From the moment IHES moved to Bures-sur-Yvette, Alexander Grothendieck’s seminar became known as the “Séminaire de géométrie algébrique du Bois-Marie” (SGA) and provided a focal point for the training of young geometers and for their meetings in the 1960s.

Tableau d'Oscar Lanford III

The “Thom style”

“An unforgettable experience is how I would describe following Thom’s presentations at his seminar. His thought process in mathematics astounded me. He could move very quickly from a very concrete and illustrative approach to one that I found very abstract. As to the way he handled an audience, it was show time, every time: the cream of Parisian mathematicians was in the audience, firing off objections that would have unsettled anyone else and I would hold my breath wondering how Thom would address them.”

Frédéric Pham, 2004

René Thom working at a chalkboard

Thematic years and attractors

With Nicolaas H. Kuiper, IHES’ second director, the working year was organized more scientifically. He based his invitation program on “attractors”, scientists around whom visitors would gravitate, and suggested “thematic years”, such as analysis and astrophysics.

Summer school 2019


The topics studied at IHES and the scientific activities undertaken there change constantly. For example, permanent professors now give a “cours de l'IHES” each year and when the weather is fine, the park and lecture theaters are filled with young scientists attending a summer school.