Paris 2006 - The Sorbonne

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This is the main entrance to the Sorbonne, on Rue des Écoles ("street of the schools"). As one professor at the conference remarked, the Sorbonne is still very much the "mother ship" for philosophers and humanists. The door on the right is where we entered to eat our wonderful lunches, with smoked salmon, shrimp, cold cuts of various kinds of lunch meats, a variety of fresh breads, salads, tomatoes and cheese, little sandwiches, pastries, and of course good wine. One lunch was in an ornate room lined with bookcases containing the bound dissertations of students at the Sorbonne. Another was in an equally ornate room lined with paintings in the impressionist style depicting the various disciplines.

We had a very nice opening reception for the conference in the Grands Salons du Rectorat, another beautiful room with paintings of various important people from the history of the university. A fellow from Australia and I were admiring the paintings and reading their captions. He joked that it was fun to see the word "doyen" used in its natural setting.


A side entrance to the Sorbonne on Rue de la Sorbonne leading into the courtyard. This is where we entered for the opening and closing plenary sessions. The opening plenary was in Amphithéâtre Louis Liard. My flight was delayed, so I was late to this session. I walked in and sat down and relaxed for the first time since the hurried trip into the city from Charles de Gaulle airport on the RER train. I looked around the room at the glorious floor-to-ceiling paintings of René Descartes and other extraordinarily famous people who have studied and taught at the university over the centuries. I had been in the city less than an hour, and I think that it was at this point that I began to become a bit overwhelmed by my surroundings. I realized that I wasn't in Chicago anymore, that was for certain!


The courtyard of the Sorbonne, with the stairs leading up to the chapel. You can see a few conference participants walking to the closing plenary. The Sorbonne is one of the oldest universities in the world, founded in 1257. Thomas Aquinas studied and taught there over 700 years ago! The chapel in this picture was rebuilt in the 17th century, and the rest of the building was rebuilt in the 19th century. At the bottom of the stairs notice the two statues on the left and the right.


The statue on the left is of Victor Hugo, who I think bears a remarkable resemblance to John Franks of our math department at Northwestern University.


The statue on the right is of Louis Pasteur.


This is the painting above the lectern in the Amphithéâtre Richelieu, where we had the closing plenary session. It is unfortunately partially obscured by a projection screen set up for the lecture.


A view towards the rear of the Amphithéâtre Richelieu. Cardinal Richelieu, the famous chief minister to King Louis XIII, became proviseur (principal or headmaster) of the Sorbonne in 1622. He rebuilt the chapel between 1626 and 1629, and he is now buried there.


La Maison de la Recherche, a separate building on Rue Serpente, six or seven blocks away from the Sorbonne proper. This building is equipped with modern computer facilities and classrooms. This is where the papers were presented during the three working days of the conference. You can see some conference participants standing outside the entrance wearing their badges. The banner reads "Université Paris Sorbonne (Paris IV), La Maison de la Recherche (the house of research), dedicated to the Humanities."