Quotation of Paul Painlevé

by Ian Short

For production of an Open University text, I have spent a long time researching the origin of a quotation of Paul Painlevé. I include the details here in case they are of use to others. Some of the information about the quotation that I can find elsewhere on-line is incomplete or incorrect.

The quotation is

entre deux vérités du domaine réel, le chemin le plus facile et le plus court passe bien souvent par le domaine complexe,

which translates as

between two truths of the real domain, the easiest and shortest path quite often passes through the complex domain.

This quotation is taken from a document written by Painlevé around 1900 that was distributed to various scientists to determine whether Painlevé should be admitted to l’Académie des Sciences, Paris. Much later, after Painlevé’s death, it was discovered by his son, and then republished as the following book.

Title: Analyse des travaux scientifiques jusqu’en 1900

Publisher: Librairie Scientifique et Technique Albert Blanchard

Publication year: 1967

Publication location: Paris

Page number of quotation: 2

Here’s a snip of the front of the text.

Here’s a snip of the quote itself.

Here are some words about the origin of the book.