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Odile Jacob is a French publisher who founded Les Éditions Odile Jacob in the middle of the 1980s. She is also a trained scientist, studying the workings of the brain, the mind and thought. She is a member of Le Siècle.
Her father François Jacob (17 June 1920-19 April 2013) was a French biologist, who shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Having been awarded a grant from the Sachs Foundation, Odile Jacob went to Harvard University to work on a thesis on the acquisition of concepts in children. She was a pioneer and a precursor in this field, which at the time was neither taught nor researched in France. In the United States, she studied with some of the most highly esteemed professors, including Roger Brown and Jerry Kagan, who both urged her to stay at Harvard and pursue her career there. At the same time, she received a similar offer from the Department of Cognitive Psychology at New York City’s Rockefeller University, one of the world’s most prestigious research institutions.
Forced to return to France for family reasons, and realizing that French intellectual life needed to be rejuvenated, she decided to become a publisher. Her company's goals were to give readers an understanding of the great scientific advances that have shaped and transformed our contemporary world and to make scientists and scholars internationally recognized. Having shown that science was an integral part of culture, she aimed, through her own publishing activities, to support science and science education as well as to cast light on the major issues at stake in the contemporary world. Jacob's achievements also include the development of a new branch devoted to education, particularly to the development of state-of-the-art software to teach science — mathematics, physics, biology — and to help children learn science as early as possible and as well as possible.
The "Editions Odile Jacob" publishing company has brought together — in a single catalogue displaying more than 2,500 titles — works by some of the greatest scientific minds and by some of the most powerful international statesmen. It has turned demanding, even scholarly works into best-selling books. The company has become a quasi-institution, imposing its imprint as a synonym not only for youth, modernity and creativity but also for rigor and reliability. Scientists and Nobel Prize winners from all over the world have chosen Odile Jacob to publish their works, such as Jean-Pierre Changeux, Ilya Prigogine, James Watson, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Gerald Edelman, and Antonio Damasio. Jacob has also developed a strong list devoted to current affairs and politics : the current U.S. President Barack Obama, the former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, the U.S. President Bill Clinton, the U.S. President George W. Bush, the former U.S. Secretary of the State Colin Powell, the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the former Soviet foreign affairs Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, the late French President François Mitterrand, the former French President Jacques Chirac, and also the former European Commission Chairman Jacques Delors.
Jacob is an Officier in the National Order of the Legion of Honor (2010).
- 1991 : Grand Prix de l’Information Scientifique by the French Academy of Sciences
- 1995 : businesswoman of the year by the Veuve Clicquot Prize Jury
- 2005 : recipient of the Grinzane Cavour Prize for Publishing in Turin, Italy and Doctor Honoris Causa by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne