FOM: Grothendieck's membership of Bourbaki

Adrian Mathias amathias at
Thu Sep 24 15:29:52 EDT 1998

I notice that Corry in his Synthese article 
"Nicolas Bourbaki and the concept of mathematical structure" 
(Synthese volume 92, pp 315--348, 1992) 
states Grothendieck to have joined the Bourbaki group. 
(page 318, last sentence of second paragraph of section 3.) 

There is a further statement, on the fifth line of page 333, second 
paragraph of section 5, that Grothendieck was himself a member of the 
younger generation of Bourbaki; and, perhaps most decisively of all, 
there is on the bottom of page 336 and the top of page 337 a quotation
from La Tribu, 39, 4June - 7 July 1956. The second paragraph reads 
(accents omitted) 

Chap V (Categories et foncteurs) -- Pour commencer Grothendieck 
redigera une espece de Fascicule de Resultats en style naif, afin que
Bourbaki se rende compte de ce qu'il est utile de pouvoir faire. 
On formalisera ensuite.  

To my eye that reads like the minutes of a meeting at which 
it was agreed that Grothendieck would draft a skeleton for a fifth 
chapter of "Theorie des ensembles", and suggests that at least 
at some point in June 1956, Grothendieck was acting as 
part of the Bourbaki team. 

"Theorie des ensembles", as published, had only four chapters; it 
may be that Grothendieck fell out with the other members over the 
treatment of the projected chapter V, and that he then decided to 
withdraw from the group. It would be interesting to know the details, 
given the penchant of academic groups for pretending that no disagreements 
have ever occurred. 


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