André Weil writes from Rouen prison

During the Second World War André Weil was first imprisoned in Finland, accused of spying, then after being returned to France he was put into Rouen prison convicted of being a deserter. The following is an extract of a letter her wrote to his wife from Rouen prison:

My mathematics work is proceeding beyond my wildest hopes, and I am even a bit worried - if it's only in prison that I work so well, will I have to arrange to spend two or three months locked up every year? In the meantime, I am contemplating writing a report to the proper authorities, as follows: "To the Director of Scientific Research: Having recently been in a position to discover through personal experience the considerable advantages afforded to pure and disinterested research by a stay in the establishments of the Penitentiary System, I take the liberty of, etc. etc."

As for my work, it is going so well that today I am sending Papa Cartan a note for the Comptes-Rendus. I have never written, perhaps never even seen, a note in the Comptes-Rendus in which so many results are compressed into such a small space. I am very pleased with it, and especially because of where it was written (it must be a first in the history of mathematics) and because it is a fine way of letting all my mathematical friends around the world know that I exist. And I am thrilled by the beauty of my theorems.

Last Updated December 2008