March 7, 2007
Hubert Curien was born on 30 October 1924 in the Vosges region of eastern France. While a student, he enlisted in the French resistance and was commended for bravery in action. He entered the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and went on to pursue a research career in crystallography, joining the Sorbonne Mineralogy Laboratory. He was always keen to encourage collaboration between mineralogists and physicists. He was appointed lecturer at the University of Paris in 1949, obtained his PhD in 1951, and became professeur in 1956. From 1968 onwards, he continued with his teaching career at the 'Pierre et Marie Curie/Paris VI' University, which he left only in 1994, despite all his political duties.
Aside from his scientific career, Hubert Curien is known mostly for his managerial and political responsibilities, pursued with commitment, efficiency and vision both in France and in Europe. He left his mark on an impressive number of scientific institutions. From 1966 to 1969, he was Scientific Director for Physics at the CNRS, France's scientific research centre, becoming its Director General in 1969. In 1973, he was given responsibility for reorganising research in France. From 1976 to 1984, he was President of the French space agency (CNES), and from 1984 to1993, served as Minister of Research and Space under four different governments.
From 1981 to 1984, he was Chairman of the ESA Council, and he is now still remembered ¿ among his many achievements ¿ as one of the fathers of the Ariane programme and as a promoter of a Europe united through science. From 1994 to 1996, he also headed the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and in 1993, was elected to the French Academy of Science.
For his work, Hubert Curien received the highest distinctions and awards. He was known for his great intelligence and managerial and political abilities, but also for his simplicity, modesty, sense of humour and willingness to listen to others. He died on 6 February 2005, and is survived by his wife, Perrine, and their sons, Nicolas, Christophe and Pierre-Louis.