The Foundation - IHES

The Foundation

IHES was created in 1958 at a key stage in the history of science and the world. Léon Motchane, a Russian businessman, loved mathematics to the extent that he submitted his doctoral thesis in 1954. Determined to offer exceptional scientists a place conducive to the unfettered development of their research, he took inspiration from the model of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton and created IHES, dedicated to theoretical sciences: mathematics, physics and their interactions.


From the Institute’s inception, Motchane enlisted the emblematic support of Robert Oppenheimer – then Director of IAS – who joined the Scientific Committee and remained a member all his life. The first contributors, won over by this scientific project, came from both the public and the private sectors, in France and abroad. The wide range of the Institute’s partners reflects lasting universal appeal.

Excellence is the privilege of no single nation and for the past half century, IHES has been a link in the global chain of knowledge development. The  Institute was created for researchers – both permanent and invited – who transcend the borders of mathematics and theoretical physics. More than 200 scientists come to IHES from all over the world every year for research visits.

IHES directors

1958 – 1971 : Léon Motchane, a Russian born business man who loved mathematics, was the Institute’s founder and first director.

1971 – 1985 : Nicolaas H. Kuiper, Dutch mathematician
Nicolaas Kuiper showed a marked interest in his research for topology and geometry in many forms, from immersion theory to dynamic systems, from flexahedron theory to taut immersions.

1985-1994 : Marcel Berger, French mathematician
A wide spectrum Riemannian geometer, Marcel Berger is particularly noted for the 1/4 pinching theorem, which became a cornerstone for global geometry. He was the President of the Société Mathématique de France from 1979 to 1981.

1994-2013 : Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, French mathematician
Jean-Pierre Bourguignon has a strong preference for differential geometry, especially its links to partial differential equations and mathematical physics. He has focused his work on the Ricci curvature, both for its mathematical aspects and the role it plays in general relativity.

Since 2013 : Emmanuel Ullmo, French mathematician
His area of mathematical research is algebraic geometry and arithmetic. He is an alumnus of École Normale Supérieure de Cachan (class of 1985) and holds a PhD in Mathematical Sciences from Université Paris-Sud (1992).

IHES chairmen

  • Joseph Pérès, Institut de France (1958-1962)
  • André Grandpierre, Pont à Mousson (1962-1972)
  • Jacques Ballet, Esso Standard France (1972-1973)
  • Raymond Barre, Conseil général Banque de France (1973-1977)
  • Pierre Aigrain, Thomson (1977-1978)
  • Renaud de la Genière, Banque de France (1978-1985)
  • Marcel Boiteux, Électricité de France (1985-1994)
  • Philippe Lagayette, JP Morgan (1995-2014)
  • Marwan Lahoud, Airbus Group (since 2014)

The IHES video channel

Since 2013, IHES has uploaded all of its conferences, lectures and public events onto its YouTube channel. View all the scientific events there.