Cécile DeWitt-Morette

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Cécile DeWitt-Morette
Cecile.png
Cécile DeWitt-Morette (left) with Bryce DeWitt (right)
Born (1922-12-21) December 21, 1922 (age 92)
Paris, France
Residence United States of America
Fields Theoretical physics
Functional integration
Institutions Institute for Advanced Study
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Texas at Austin
Known for École de Physique des Houches
Notable awards Marcel Grossmann Award
Spouse Bryce DeWitt

Cécile Andrée Paule DeWitt-Morette (born December 21, 1922) is a French mathematician and physicist. She founded a summer school at Les Houches in the French Alps. For this and her publications, she was awarded the American Society of the French Legion of Honor 2007 Medal for Distinguished Achievement.[1] Attendees at the summer school included over twenty students who would go on to be Nobel Prize winners,[2] including Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, Georges Charpak, and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, who identify the school for assisting in their success.[3]

Biography[edit]

Cécile Morette was born in 1922[4] and brought up in Normandy, where in 1943 she earned her License des Science from the University of Caen. Despite her original intention to become a surgeon,[5] she completed her degree in mathematics, physics, and chemistry due to limited opportunities to attend medical school in France during World War II.[6][7]

Following the completion of her bachelor's degree, Morette entered the University of Paris, where she was studying when her mother, sister, and grandmother were tragically killed in the Allied bombing of Caen to support the D-Day landings.[5] In 1944, while still working toward her doctorate at the University of Paris, Morette took a job at the Centre de National de la Recherche Scientifique, then under the direction of Frederic Joliot-Curie.[5] She completed her Ph.D. (Sur la production des mésons dans les chocs entre nucléons) in 1947.[8][9]

In 1948 she was invited to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey by Robert Oppenheimer,[3] who had recently become director of the Institute.[10] There she met her future husband and scientific collaborator Bryce DeWitt, whom she married in 1951.[11]

To revitalize French research in mathematics and physics following the war, DeWitt-Morette established a summer school at Les Houches in the French Alps[12] in 1951. She tells stories of how she obtained the funding by tricking her way into a minister's office and then persuaded her male colleagues to support the idea by pretending that the idea was theirs.[3] Morette was to lead this school for the next 22 years. The school was able to list twenty former students or lecturers at the school who went to become Nobel laureates.[2] One winner of the Fields Medal credited the summer school as responsible for his career in mathematics. Nobel laureates Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, Georges Charpak, and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji identified the school as helping with their success.[3] In 1958, NATO funded a series of advanced study centres that were based on Morette's summer school.[12]

Morette found that she did suffer some discrimination in America. She married the American physicist Bryce DeWitt and they had four children. Morette had originally adopted her husband's name, but found that her work was attributed to him. Later they were both visiting Professors at a University that downgraded Morette, claiming that they did this under a clause to prevent two family members having power. This was despite the significant contribution by Morette.[3]

Bryce DeWitt died in 2004 from cancer. In 2007 Professor Cécile DeWitt-Morette was awarded the American Society of the French Legion of Honor 2007 Medal for Distinguished Achievement in New York. She was then the Jane and Roland Blumberg Centennial Professor Emerita of Physics at the University of Texas at Austin.[1]

Work[edit]

In 1953 a trustee of the unusual Gravity Research Foundation, Agnew Bahnson, contacted Bryce DeWitt with a proposal to fund a gravity research institute. The proposed name was agreed as the "Institute for Field Physics" and it was established in 1956 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under the direction of Bryce and Morette.[13]

In 1958 Cécile DeWitt-Morette invited Léon Motchane to see the Institute of Advanced Study in USA[14] which inspired Léon Motchane to establish an institute dedicated to fundamental research in three areas: mathematics, theoretical physics, and the methodology of human sciences upon which he later created the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques.[15]

Expedition to test general relativity[edit]

In 1972 Morette and her husband led an expedition to Mauritania to confirm that light was deflected in line with the theory of general relativity. These measurements were made during the solar eclipse there. Comparison of the pictures with those made six months later confirmed that, in line with theory, light was indeed bent when passing by massive objects.[16] Morette and her husband joined the faculty of the University of Texas in 1972. She began to work increasingly in physics rather than in mathematics, and she became a Professor in 1985.[3]

Awards and Honors[edit]

In 2007 Professor Cécile DeWitt-Morette was awarded the American Society of the French Legion of Honor 2007 Medal for Distinguished Achievement in New York. She was then the Jane and Roland Blumberg Centennial Professor Emerita of Physics at the University of Texas at Austin.[1]

Selected works[edit]

  • L’Energie Atomique, de Gigord, Paris (1946)
  • C. Morette and H.W. Peng, Nature 160 (1947) 59-60
  • Particules Elémentaires, Hermann, Paris (1951)
  • Black holes (Cécile DeWitt-Morette, Bryce Seligman DeWitt, 1973)
  • (With Y. Choquet-Bruhat and M. Dillard-Bleick) Analysis, Manifolds and Physics, (1977)[17]
  • I.T. for Intelligent Grandmothers, (1987)[18]
  • (With Y. Choquet-Bruhat) Analysis, Manifolds, and Physics. Part II. (1989)
  • Quantum field theory: perspective and prospective (Cécile DeWitt-Morette, Jean Bernard Zuber)
  • (With P. Cartier) Functional Integration, Action and Symmetries (2006)[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Department of Physics News, University of Texas at Austin, accessed March 2010
  2. ^ a b "The School High in the Alps". Europhysics News (Springer Berlin / Heidelberg) 30 (3): 68. July 1999. doi:10.1007/s007700050127. ISSN 1432-1092. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Cécile DeWitt-Morette, Emil Mitchell, Senior Women, accessed March 2010
  4. ^ DeWitt, Bryce (1993). "Cécile Andrée Paule DeWitt-Morette". In Grinstein, Louise S.; Rose, Rose K.; Rafailovich, Miriam H. Women in Chemistry and Physics: A Biobibliographic Sourcebook. Greenwood Press. pp. 150–161. 
  5. ^ a b c "UT Physics: Cecile DeWitt-Morette". Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "UT Physics: Cecile DeWitt-Morette". Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "UT Physics History: Cecile DeWitt-Morette". Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  8. ^ a b List of publications, University of Texas, accessed March 2010
  9. ^ Cécile DeWitt-Morette at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  10. ^ Rhodes, Richard (October 1977). "'I Am Become Death...': The Agony of J. Robert Oppenheimer". American Heritage. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  11. ^ http://www.aip.org/history/ohilist/23199.html. Retrieved 30 October 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ a b "L'Ecole de Physique des Houches (English translation)" (in French). Retrieved 16 March 2010. 
  13. ^ CWP at physics.UCLA.edu // Cecile DeWitt-Morette at cwp.library.ucla.edu
  14. ^ DeWitt-Morette, Cécile. "1948–1950: Snapshots". Institute of Advanced Study. 
  15. ^ Jackson, Allyn. "The IHÉS at Forty". American Mathematical Society. Retrieved March 1999. 
  16. ^ Archives of American Mathematics Spotlight: The Bryce S. DeWitt Papers, Kristy Sorensen, accessed March 2010
  17. ^ Ørsted, Bent (1980). "Review: Analysis, manifolds and physics, by Yvonne Choquet-Bruhat, Cecile DeWitt-Morette, and Margaret Dillard-Bleick". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.) 3 (2): 878–885. 
  18. ^ IT for Intellegent Grandmothers

External links[edit]