Marcel-Paul Schützenberger

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Marcel-Paul Schützenberger
Born (1920-10-24)October 24, 1920
Died July 29, 1996(1996-07-29) (aged 75)
Nationality French
Fields Mathematics
Institutions University of Paris
Alma mater University of Paris
Doctoral advisor Georges Darmois
Albert Châtelet
Doctoral students Jean Berstel
Dominique Foata
Alain Lascoux
Maurice Nivat
Louis Nolin
Jean-François Perrot

Marcel-Paul "Marco" Schützenberger (October 24, 1920 – July 29, 1996) was a French mathematician and Doctor of Medicine. His work had impact across the fields of formal language, combinatorics, and information theory.[1] In addition to his formal results in mathematics, he was "deeply involved in [a] struggle against the votaries of [neo-]Darwinism",[2] a stance which has resulted in some mixed reactions from his peers and from critics of his stance on evolution. Several notable theorems and objects in mathematics bear his name (for example Schutzenberger group). Paul Schützenberger was his great-grandfather.

Contributions to medicine and biology[edit]

Schützenberger's first doctorate, in medicine, was awarded in 1948 from the Faculté de Médecine de Paris.[3] His doctoral thesis, on the statistical study of gender at birth, was distinguished by the Baron Larrey Prize from the French Academy of Medicine.[4]

Biologist Jaques Besson, a co-author with Schützenberger on a biological topic,[5] while noting that Schützenberger is perhaps most remembered for work in pure mathematical fields, credits him[4] for likely being responsible for the introduction of statistical sequential analysis in French hospital practice.[6]

Contributions to mathematics and linguistics[edit]

Schützenberger's second doctorate was awarded in 1953 from Université Paris III.[7] This work, developed from earlier results[8][9] is counted amongst the early influential French academic work in information theory.[10] His later impact in both linguistics and combinatorics is reflected by two theorems in formal linguistics (the Chomsky–Schützenberger enumeration theorem[11] and the Chomsky–Schützenberger representation theorem), and one in combinatorics (the Schützenberger theorem). With Alain Lascoux, Schützenberger is credited with the foundation of the notion of the plactic monoid,[12][13] reflected in the name of the combinatorial structure called by some the Lascoux–Schützenberger tree.[14][15]

The mathematician Dominique Perrin credited Schützenberger with "deeply [influencing] the theory of semigroups", and "deep results on rational functions and transducers," amongst other impacts on mathematics.[1]

Stance on Darwinism[edit]

Schützenberger's stance on "neo-Darwinism"[16][17][18] has been the source of criticism from biologists and mathematicians.[4] While some of his peers have chosen to pass over this aspect of Schützenberger as "too personal" to discuss,[2] nonetheless praising it as one of his "bête-noires" alongside his thinking on artificial intelligence,[2] or have characterized it as his being "passionately interested ... in the many flaws in the Darwinian theory of evolution as it is commonly presented,"[19] others have pointed out that his stance on Darwinism sometimes resulted in "street fighting":

Unfortunately the dialogue, with those who did not share his point of view, quickly turned into street fighting: with Schütz[enberger] to blame, said his adversaries. Note, however, that the big names Mayr and Monod always had a constant interest in his ideas and respected his culture, his person, and his always set scientific standpoint.[20]

Schützenberger himself admitted that biology was not his speciality,[21] but stated that "[t]he participation of mathematicians in the overall assessment of evolutionary thought has been encouraged by the biologists themselves, if only because they presented such an irresistible target."[21] Thus his assertion of the probability of random mutations consistently giving negative results brought about a symposium in 1966 (the Wistar Symposium) where he first presented openly (along with MIT professor Murray Eden) the problems with bringing accurate mathematical probabilities using neo-Darwinism.[22]

Offices, honors, and recognitions[edit]

Professorships and other teaching[1]
National honors
Posthumous recognitions

After his death, two journals in theoretical mathematics dedicated issues to Schützenberger's memory. He was commemorated in this manner by Theoretical Computer Science in 1998[23] and again by the International Journal of Algebra and Computation in 1999.[24]

The mathematician David Berlinski provided this dedication in his 2000 book The Advent of The Algorithm --- The Idea that Rules the World: À la mémoire de mon ami . . M. P. Schützenberger, 1921-1996.


  • The character "Dr. Schütz" in Boris Vian's 1948 novel, Et on tuera tous les affreux, is said to have been inspired by Schützenberger.[25]
  • Together with many of his students, Schützenberger is one of the contributors of the pseudonymous collective M. Lothaire.

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Herbert Wilf, Dominique Foata, et al., "In Memoriam: Marcel-Paul Schützenberger, 1920-1996," Electronic Journal of Combinatorics, served from University of Pennsylvania Dept. of Mathematics Server, article dated 12 October 1996, retrieved from WWW on 4 November 2006.
  2. ^ a b c Foata, Dominique, "In Memoriam," op. cit.
  3. ^ Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul, Contribution à l'étude statistique du sexe à la naissance, Doctoral thesis, Faculté de Médecine de Paris, 2 July 1948.
  4. ^ a b c Besson, Jaques, "La quête de M. P. Schützenberger en Médecine et Biologie," dated March 2001, retrieved on 5 November 2006.
  5. ^ Besson, Jaques, Gavaudan, Pierre, & Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul, "Sur l'existence d'une certaine corrélation entre le poids moléculaire des acides aminés et le nombre de triplets intervenant dans leurs codages," C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris, No. 268, pp. 1342–1344, 1969.
  6. ^ Schützenberger, Marcel-Parul, "Une application de l'analyse séquentielle," Semaine des Hôpitaux de Paris, Vol. 25 No. 60, pp. 2562–2564, 14 August 1949.
  7. ^ Marcel-Paul Schützenberger (1953). Contributions aux applications statistiques de la theorie de l'information (Ph.D.). Publications de l'Institut de Statistique de l'Université de Paris III. 3-117. Institut de statistique de l'universite de Paris.  Record at WorldCat
  8. ^ Ville, Jean & Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul, "Les opérations des mathématiques pures sont toutes des fonctions logiques," Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Sciences, 232, pp. 206-207, 1951.
  9. ^ Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul (1951). "Sur les rapports entre la quantité d'information au sens de Fisher et au sens de Wiener". Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences 232: 925–227. 
  10. ^ Mindell, David et al. (2003). "From Communications Engineering to Communications Science: Cybernetics and Information Theory in the United States, France and the Soviet Union". In Walker, Mark. Science and Ideology: A Comparative History. London: Routledge. pp. 66–95. ISBN 0-415-27122-3. 
  11. ^ Chomsky, Noam & Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul "The Algebraic Theory of Context-Free Languages", in Computer Programming and Formal Systems, P. Braffort and D. Hirschberg (eds.), North Holland, pp. 118-161, 1963.
  12. ^ Lascoux, Alain & Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul, "Le monoïde plaxique," in Noncommutative structures in algebra and geometric combinatorics (Naples, 1978), volume 109 of Quad. Ricerca Sci., pp. 129–156, CNR, Rome, Italy, 1981.
  13. ^ Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul (1997). "Pour le monoïde plaxique". Math. Inform. Sci. Humaines 140: 5–10. 
  14. ^ Little, David (2003). "Combinatorial Aspects of the Lascoux-Schützenberger Tree". Adv. Math. 174 (2): 236–253. doi:10.1016/S0001-8708(02)00038-5. 
  15. ^ Lam, Thomas; Shimozono, Mark (2006). "A Little Bijection for Affine Stanley Symmetric Functions". arXiv:math.CO/0601483. 
  16. ^ Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul, Algorithms and the neo-darwinian theory of evolution, in Mathematical Challenge to the Neodarwinian Theory of Evolution, Wistar Institute Symposium, pp. 73–80, 1967. — Extended abstract
  17. ^ Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul et al., Chapter: "Intelligence artificielle, néo-darwinisme et principe anthropique," in Le savant et la foi (trans. The Intellectual and Faith), Jean Delumeau (ed.), Flammarion, 1991.
  18. ^ Schützenberger, Marcel-Paul, "Les failles du darwinisme," La Recherche, No. 283, pp. 86–90, 1996. English version available at
  19. ^ Wilf, Herbert, "In Memoriam," op. cit.
  20. ^ "Malheureusement le dialogue, avec ceux qui ne partageaient pas son point de vue, tourna vite à la bataille de rues : la faute à Schütz, disaient ses adversaires. Notons cependant que les grands noms que sont Mayr et Monod ont toujours manifesté à son égard un intérêt constant pour ses idées et que le respect qu'ils avaient de sa culture, de sa personne, de ses prises de position scientifiques a toujours été de mise." from Besson, Jaques, op. cit.
  21. ^ a b Interview: "Marcel-Paul Schützenberger: The Miracles of Darwinism," Origins & Design, Vol. 17, No. 2, Access Research Network, 1996
  22. ^ P.S. Moorehead and M.M. Kaplan, eds., Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution (Philadelphia: Wistar), 1967.
  23. ^ "Special issue: papers dedicated to the memory of Marcel-Paul Schützenberger", Theoretical Computer Science, Nivat, M. & Perrin, Dominique (eds.), Vol. 204, Issues 1-2, September 1998.
  24. ^ "Special Issue: Dedicated to the Memory of Marcel-Paul Schützenberger," International Journal of Algebra and Computation, Vol. 9, Nos. 3-4, June & August 1999. Issue at URL:
  25. ^ See:

External links[edit]