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Claudine Hermann, renown physicist and fisrt woman appointed professor at the École Polytechnique, passed away

Claudine Hermann, the first woman to be appointed professor at the École Polytechnique, died on July 17th. A renowned physicist, she devoted her career to teaching and research and was committed to promoting women in sciences.

Claudine Hermann, première femme professeure à l'Ecole polytechnique

Claudine Hermann was the first woman to be appointed as a professor at l’X, a renowned physicist and a champion of the promotion of women in the scientific world. She died on July 17th in her 76th year.

Born on December 19, 1945 in Paris, Claudine Hermann was a former student of the École normale supérieure de jeunes filles (S1965) and agrégée in physics (1969). She supported her thesis entitled Optical pumping in gallium antimonide: optical detection of electron resonance at the University of Paris VI in 1976 and obtained the title of Doctor of Science. A specialist in solid state physics, her work focused on optical pumping in semiconductors, polarized electron photoemission and near field optics.

In collaboration with Claude Weisbuch, she obtained the commonly accepted value of the value of the Landé g-factor g=-0.44 for electrons in Gallium Arsenide which is important for spin physics in the quantum Hall regime.

She was an assistant at the École normale supérieure, before being recruited as a lecturer at the École polytechnique (1980), where she was appointed professor in 1992, twenty years after the opening of the Cycle ingénieur examination to women and 198 years after the foundation of the School.

From 1980 to 2005, she was deputy director of the Laboratory of Condensed Matter Physics (PMC). She was Vice-Chair of the Department of Physics from 1985 to 1992. Claudine Hermann became an honorary professor in 2005.

Committed to promoting women in Sciences

In parallel to her activities as a physicist, Claudine Hermann has dedicated herself throughout her life to the promotion of women in scientific careers by engaging in numerous institutional actions.

Within the group « Demain la parité (Towards Gender parity), she promoted the pioneering studies on the role of female studentd in scientific preparatory classes (1997), then in the scientific Grandes Écoles (1998). 

In 2000, Claudine Hermann was a founding member and the first president of the association Femmes & Sciences (Women & Sciences).

From 1999 to 2006, she was the representative of the association Femmes et Sciences at the European Commission's Directorate General for Research. She is co-author of the report of the ETAN working group "Women and Science", Integrating the gender dimension, a factor of excellence in 2000, which presents a detailed state of play and concrete recommendations for the European Union and the Member States. Claudine Hermann has also followed the developments of this issue in France at the Directorate of Higher Education of the Ministry of Education and at the National Center for Scientific Research, in the journal Sciences of the French Association for the Advancement of Science (AFAS).

She was a long-time member of the Association Femmes et Mathématiques (Women &Maths).

In 2005, she contributed to the foundation of the European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS), which brings together about 100 associations and 15,000 women scientists. She was vice-president from 2009 to 2017, then president from 2017 to 2021.

Claudine Hermann is Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor (2015) and Officer of the National Order of Merit (2001).