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“Everything is mathematical”—honorary degree awarded to Cédric Villani

HEC Paris had the honor of hosting Cédric Villani, 2010 Fields Medalist, Director of the Henri Poincaré Institute, and Professor at Claude Bernard-Lyon 1 University, on Thursday 11 September 2014 to present him at the end of a lecture he gave with the title of Professor Honoris Causa, HEC Paris.

Cédric Villani, conférence Honoris Causa à HEC Paris - 2014

Right from the choice of topic of his lecture—‘triangles, gas, prices and men’—Cédric Villani first showed that everything is “basically” mathematical: “Mathematics embodies everything around us. Our world in general and economics in particular are increasingly mathematical.”

He then ‘proved’, to the large delight of the students, the proximity between mathematics and poetry, as they both proceed, according to him, from the “business of re-creating the world, based on a rigorous and creative use of language.”

Prof Villani finally explained why the great inventions gave birth to the bringing together of people, before concluding this apparent paradox: “Warning! Too much knowledge paralyses. You must always strike a balance between naivety and expertise.” The students were fascinated by his teaching skills and his ability to make the switch between different paradigms—mathematics, physics, poetry, epistemology and economics.

Following the lecture, Bernard Ramanantsoa, Dean of HEC Paris, awarded Prof Villani with the title of Professor Honoris Causa , stating: “It’s an honor for HEC to host a researcher as well renowned as Professor Villani, a member of the Academy of Sciences, and the true spokesman and ambassador for the French scientific community—both in the media and in the eyes of the powers-that-be in politics and finance. This lecture by Prof Villani is an illustration of the foundations of an HEC education: bringing together research and society-at-large.”