Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)

Abstract

Centre national de la recherche scientifique – National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) – was created in October 1939, in the early days of World War II, in order to encourage and to coordinate research at the national level in France. If its origins may be traced as early as the 1870s, the conditions of its founding were met in the late 1930s, during and after the Popular Front coalition, at the initiative of physicist and Nobel Prize winner Jean Perrin. After 1945, it has developed in all scientific fields, becoming in the 1960s and 1970s a top‐leading institution for basic research as well as for research related to the needs of society. Today the CNRS has more than 30 000 scientists, engineers and technicians, and 1200 laboratories, brought together in 10 institutes under the direction of its president, chemist Alain Fuchs.

Key Concepts

  • The CNRS is the largest public research organisation in France and the largest basic science agency in Europe.

  • The CNRS has contributed to the emergence of a national scientific policy in France.

  • Valorisation has become a major objective for the CNRS.

  • The CNRS is designed to encourage interdisciplinary research.

  • The mission of the CNRS is to evaluate and carry out all research capable of advancing knowledge and bringing social, cultural, and economic benefits for society.

Keywords: France; CNRS; public research; interdisciplinarity; international collaboration; basic research; valorisation; Jean Perrin; Charles de Gaulle

Figure 1.

Jean Perrin (1870–1942), founder of the CNRS in 1939 (© CNRS Photothèque, Fonds ancien).

Figure 2.

Irène (1897–1956) and Frédéric (1900–1958) Joliot‐Curie, awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 (© CNRS Photothèque, Fonds ancien).

Figure 3.

Biologist Georges Teissier (1900–1972), Director General of the CNRS from 1946 to 1950 (© CNRS Photothèque, Fonds ancien).

Figure 4.

Charles de Gaulle visiting the CNRS Aimé Cotton Laboratory in 1965 (© CNRS Photothèque, Fonds ancien).

Figure 5.

Scientific Research Minister Hubert Curien, President François Mitterrand, and Biologist François Kourilsky, Director General of the CNRS from 1988 to 1994, at CNRS's 50th anniversary in 1989 (© CNRS Photothèque, Fonds ancien).

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Further Reading

Cahiers pour l'histoire du CNRS (1988–1990), Paris, CNRS Editions, 10 vols. http://www.histcnrs.fr/sommaire‐cahiers.html

Charpentier‐Morize M (1997) Jean Perrin, savant et homme politique. Paris: Belin.

Guthleben D (2009) Histoire du CNRS de 1939 à nos jours. Une ambition nationale pour la science. Paris: Armand Colin.

Histoire de la recherche contemporaine (2012–today). Paris, CNRS Editions. http://hrc.revues.org/

Krige J (2006) Americain Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Papon P (1979) Le pouvoir et la science en France. Paris: Centurion.

Paul HW (1985) From Knowledge to Power. The Rise of the Science Empire in France (1860–1939). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Picard JF (1990) La République des Savants. La recherche française et le CNRS. Paris: Flammarion.

Pinault M (2000) Frédéric Joliot‐Curie. Paris: Odile Jacob.

Pinault M (2006) La science au Parlement. Les débuts d'une politique des recherches scientifiques en France. Paris: CNRS Editions.

Revue pour l'histoire du CNRS (1999–2010, 26 volumes). http://histoire‐cnrs.revues.org/

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Guthleben, Denis(Nov 2014) Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003556.pub2]