Agnes Scott College

Bernadette Perrin-Riou


August 1, 1955 -

Reprinted with permission from The Notices of the American Mathematical Society, April 1999, Vol. 46, No. 4, p467-468.

Bernadette Perrin-Riou was born on August 1, 1955, at Les Vans, Ardeche, France. She was a student at the École Normale Supérieure de Jeunes Filles in 1974 (since then it has been unified with the men's École Normale d'Ulm). She did here Thèse de 3ème cycle with G. Poitou (1979) and her Thèse d'État with J. Coates (1983) in France. Starting in 1978, she was assistant, then Maître de Conférences, and finally professor at Université Pierre et Marie Curie. In 1994 she moved to the Université de Paris, Orsay. She was a speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians (Zürich, 1994) and received the 1998 Charles-Louis de Saulses de Freycinet Prize of the French Académie des Sciences.

Bernadette Perrin-Riou was awarded the 1999 Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize in recognition of her number theoretical research on p-adic L-functions and Iwasawa theory. Here is a copy of her response:

I am very grateful to the AMS for awarding me the 1999 AMS Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize, and I am both very happy and honored.

On this occasion I cannot help but think of some of the people who taught me mathematics: Pascal Monsellier, my high school teacher, with whom I discovered vector spaces, abstract algebraic structures, concrete plane and space isometry groups, as well as the epsilons and etas; and later Roger Godement and his course "Le jardin des délices modulaires". George Poitou and John Coates then introduced me to number theory, Galois cohomology, and elliptic curves. Eventually, I tried to extend the framework of elliptic curves using p-adic representations, which naturally led me to use Jean-Marc Fontaine's ring of periods.

I was not aware that my work has had the influence stated in the citation, but I certainly had great pleasure in discovering and understanding mathematical objects and becoming "intimate" with them. On the other hand, sometimes I found it was rather frustrating not to be able to share this mathematics with more people. This may be because of the subject; not everyone in number theory can prove a theorem at the same time deep and easy to state!

Since this is a prize for women, I should probably add a few words without any claim to generality. My parents both had a scientific education, and I never thought of any other studies. I never felt a serious difference with men during my professional career, but this may be just because I was too innocent and unaware of the problem. However, I am still shocked by the small number of girls--about one-third--in my son's high school science class.


  1. Bernadette Perrin-Riou, in Notable Women in Mathematics: A Biographical Dictionary, Edited by Charlene Morrow and Teri Perl, Greenwood Press, 1998, 161-164.
  2. MathSciNet [subscription required]
  3. Author Profile at zbMath