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American Physical Society

American Physical Society

Published on March 22, 2013
Speech by Ambassador of France François Delattre

Baltimore-MD, March 21, 2013

Read our article on this event.

Dear Professor Wineland,

Dear Professor Haroche,

Honored guests and members of the American Physical Society,

It’s a great honor and pleasure for our Scientific Attaché Annick Suzor-Weiner and for me to be here with you tonight, before this very distinguished audience as we are gathered to celebrate the two Nobel laureates in Physics for 2012: Dr. David Wineland, from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, in Boulder, Colorado; and a fellow Frenchman, Professor Serge Haroche, from the Laboratoire Kastler-Brossel, l’Ecole Normale Supérieure, and the Collège de France – three very prestigious scientific institutions in my country.

Ambassador François Delattre

This is not the first French-American Nobel celebration. In 1997, Americans Steven Chu and William Phillips shared the Nobel Prize in physics with French Professor Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, also from the Laboratoire Kastler-Brossel. And in fact Professor Cohen-Tannoudji might be considered Professor Haroche’s scientific “father,” since he directed his thesis research at the Ecole Normale Supérieure.

Just as NIST has provided an American center of excellence for Bill Phillips, John Hall (Nobel Prize, 2005) and David Wineland, so has the Laboratoire Kastler-Brossel played a similar role in France for Professors Kastler (Nobel Prize, 1966), Cohen-Tannoudji, and Professor Haroche. Each institution has its scientific tradition imbedded in the history and culture of its own country, but the recognition of excellence in scientific accomplishment is truly universal and “international” in the best sense of the word.

The branch of physics concerned with the manipulation and control of individual atoms and photons has a particularly strong tradition in France, and the source of this strength issues from the joint efforts of l’Ecole Normale Supérieure, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, and the Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).

Similarly the joint venture between the NIST and the University of Colorado, established at the initiative of NIST Director Lewis Branscomb in 1962 as the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (or simply JILA), has provided a center of American excellence in this field.

So tonight we pay tribute to two exceptional researchers, whose works are changing the lives of millions, but also and more broadly to a community of scientists on the two sides of the Atlantic and to the growing partnership between them.

The long-term institutional support of scientific excellence in both countries involves a partnership between a university and government agency. It illustrates that when properly executed, a true synergy can result. French collaboration with American colleagues both at NIST and many other leading research laboratories has been close and fruitful. We have no reason to doubt that this happy situation will continue, and we look forward to future joint celebrations of a similar nature between our two countries. And promoting French-American university and scientific collaborations is one of my key priorities as Ambassador.

In this respect I want to tell you that research and innovation are today number 1, number 2 and number 3 priorities in France.

To give you one or two illustrations, that’s why we established in my country a few years ago 71 innovation clusters bringing together – in the American way – the universities, the industry and the public research labs. And it works! That’s why we put in place in France the highest R & D tax credit in the industrialized world. And it works! That’s why we have engaged in an unprecedented effort in terms of research and innovation, through public-private partnerships within what we call the “investment for the future program”.

So science and innovation are truly part of the French DNA – and here you recognize the traditional and well-known French modesty…

Let me conclude on this positive note and tell you how delighted I am that today’s celebration takes place at the main annual meeting of the American Physical Society. We all know that the Society not only brings together 50,000 physicists, a quarter of whom are non-American, but is also very active on the international scene and addresses the relationship of physicists to the rest of civil society and the political world.

At a time when science diplomacy is becoming one of the best tools for progress toward peace and development, it is especially inspiring to see bright physicists striving to be active, engaged citizens of the world.

So my warmest congratulations again to the laureates and my warmest thanks to each and everyone of you./.

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