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Paul Painlevé was born in 1863 in Paris. He studied mathematics at the École Normale Supérieure and the University of Göttingen, and completed his doctorate in 1887. From 1887 until 1892 he taught at Lille, before returning to Paris as professor at Ecole Polytechnique and then Collège de France. An outstanding mathematician, he was awarded the Grand Prix des Sciences Mathématiques in 1890 and the Prix Bourdin in 1894. From the early 1900s he became interested in aviation and created a course in aeronautical mechanics at the École Aéronautique.
At the same time, Painlevé became involved in politics and sat in the Chamber of Deputies beginning in 1906. During the First World War, he served as Education Minister as well as War Minister from March to September 1917. From September until November 1917, Painlevé was Prime Minister, and again from April to November 1925.
From December 1925, Painlevé was President of the Administrative Council of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation (ICIC). From 1926 until his death, he was a member of the ICIC. He played a key role during the restructuring of the Organisation of Intellectual Cooperation from 1930 to 1931 (Renoliet, pp. 116 and 331). Painlevé died in October 1933.
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- J.-J. Renoliet, L’UNESCO oubliée: la Société des Nations et la coopération intellectuelle, 1919–1946 (Paris, 1999).
- UNESCO Archives, Archival Group 1, IIIC name index cards