Rene Descartes (1596-1650) : philosopher and mathematician. The author of "The Discourse on the Method", he is largely considered the origin of the French passion for logic (see Hazareesingh). If a Frenchman says to you "Let's be Cartesian", be ready for a hard moment.
(1832-1893) is associated with the development, in the Republican
regime which succeeded the Empire, of a modern educational system:
free, mandatory, secular, equally open to girls, etc... He launched the colonial expansion of France in Africa and Far-East he was one of the leaders of the Left but, at that time, the Left was pro-colonization !). He is
one of the most-revered French historical heroes and hundreds
are named after him.
Général de Gaulle (1890 - 1970) : probably the most well
- known of all the French Presidents, Charles de Gaulle dominated
French political life for thirty years.
Although initially treated
with suspicion by Churchill and (particularly) by Roosevelt,
de Gaulle imposed himself as leader of France after the Allied
landing in Normandy and the liberation of Paris ; he advocated
a new constitution and resigned in 1946 when it was unsuccessful
; he was called back to power during the Algerian War ; with
the independence of France in mind and wings given to him by
the new constitution he had proned, de Gaulle took full advantage
of his presidential powers by successfully achieving the decolonization process, then taking France out of the military
command of NATO in 1966, furnishing France with atomic weapons,
and ruffling feathers abroad by declaring "Vive le
Québec Libre" ; after the May 1968 riots and
a " non " vote to his government in a popular
referendum, de Gaulle resigned from the Presidency and retired
to his home in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises. Read a quote
from de Gaulle and about his alleged anti-Americanism. Now de Gaulle is admired by a large majority of the French and is clearly one of the French totems.
|Before WW2, de Gaulle
wrote influential books on political history and military strategy
; after Maréchal Petain formed his collaborationist government,
de Gaulle founded a government in exile and launched his famous
"appel du 18 juin" (1940) from London, in which
he called on Frenchmen to resist and join the allies.
|| Charles de Gaulle in 1960 (credit)
(1859-1914) is one of the most popular French heroes, with thousand
of streets and school named after him. He has all the traits
the French admire the most : an " intellectuel
", a political thinker who, in fact, never reached the
power, a martyr. A brilliant philosophy professor, he became
one of the leaders of the Socialist party ; vigourously opposed
to colonialism and to war, he was murdered by a right-wing fanatic
three days before WW1 broke out. More about French Socialism.
(1888-1979) is considered
one of the (if not the) founding fathers of united Europe,along
with Robert Schumann (France), Konrad Ademauer (Germany), Alcide
de Gasperi (Italy) and Paul-Henri Spaak (Belgium).
The key concept was to put
in common coal and steel (Communauté Européenne
du Charbon et de l'Acier CECA, declaration May 9, 1950) and later
the Comité d'Action pour les Etats Unis d'Europe (Committee
for the United States of Europe), 1955. More about Europe.
|Active in organizing
and coordinating supply programs in WWII (Head of the Coordinating
Committte of the Allied War Efforts), he devoted his efforts
after the war to create the conditions which would make wars
impossible in Europe.
|| Jean Monnet (left)
with Robert Schumann (credit)
Jean Moulin (1899-1943) was given by Charles de
Gaulle the task of unifying the many movements of the French
Resistance and was parachuted in France in 1942. Betrayed, he
was captured by the Nazis and died under torture without having
Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) was a key-personality of
the French intelligentsia between 1950 and 1980. In addition
to his philosophical and literary works, which are brilliant,
he was the political guru of a whole generation. His disputes
with Albert Camus, who had more heart, and with Raymond Aron,
who had no illusion about communism, are famous and created major
splits among his followers. In my opinion, he was right about
anti-colonialism but by protecting violent extreme-left movements,
he was a dangerous dogmatist and he reinforced many of the weaknesses
of the French society. More about the influence of the "intellectuels" in France.
Other names suggested by visitors
include : Raymond Aron,
Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Jean Mermoz, etc...