The Tribulations of the Inventor

  • Pierre-Gilles De Gennes


In this brilliant speech, Pierre-Gilles De Gennes focuses on one of his preferred topics: the tough life of those whose imagination and sensitivity produced some of the most important exploits in science and technology.
The story of an invention is always characterized by hard times, incomprehension and sometimes loneliness. It is bright acknowledgment of human reason at work.
De Gennes provides some intriguing examples of how the flash of genius eventually succeeds, but also demolishes some common cliché.

Author Biography

Pierre-Gilles De Gennes

P. G. de Gennes was born in Paris, France, in 1932. He majored from the École Normale in 1955. From 1955 to 1959, he was a research engineer at the Atomic Energy Center (Saclay), working mainly on neutron scattering and magnetism, with advice from A. Herpin, A. Abragam and J. Friedel (PhD 1957). During 1959 he was a postdoctoral visitor with C. Kittel at Berkeley, and then served for 27 months in the French Navy. In 1961, he became assistant professor in Orsay and soon started the Orsay group on supraconductors. Later, 1968, he switched to liquid crystals. In 1971, he became Professor at the Collège de France, and was a participant of STRASACOL (a joint action of Strasbourg, Saclay and College de France) on polymer physics.
From 1980, he became interested in interfacial problems, in particular the dynamics of wetting. Recently, he has been concerned with the physical chemistry of adhesion.
P.G. de Gennes has received the Holweck Prize from the joint French and British Physical Society; the Ampere Prize, French Academy of Science; the gold medal from the French CNRS; the Matteuci Medal, Italian Academy; the Harvey Prize, Israel; the Wolf Prize, Israel; The Lorentz Medal, Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences; and polymer awards from both APS and ACS.
He is a member of the French Academy of Sciences, the Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences, USA.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1991, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1992

How to Cite
DE GENNES, Pierre-Gilles. The Tribulations of the Inventor. Substantia, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 1, p. 37-41, mar. 2017. ISSN 2532-3997. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 21 sep. 2017. doi:
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