27 April 2022

This is an English translation of Alexander Grothendieck’s 1972 publication & CERN lecture “Shall we continue the scientific research?”. This contains the longest and clearest recording of Grothendieck speaking I’ve found, along with a full English translation of the transcript of the audio. The source for this material can be found at https://archive.org/details/Allons-nousContinuerLaRechercheScientifique/ and the recording of his CERN talk is kept at https://archive.org/details/AlexandreGrothendieck-UneVieDigneDtreVcue. Any efforts to improve or correct this translation are welcome; I have very little knowledge of French.

Shall we continue the scientific research?

Alexander Grothendieck, 1972

To read on the same subject:

Reissue of the magazine Survive and live. Volumes 1 to 12, 14 to 16, 19. (Volumes 13, 18 and 17 are being searched for). 1970-1975.

Separate edition of Roger Godement’s Science, technology, armament: A brief history of the subject. 1997.

See Hervé Nisic's documentary on the life of Alexander Grothendieck: A Man's Space.

Download and listen on the Radio Zinzine website the show Root of minus one: Alexander Grothendieck, “a life worth living.”

For all correspondence: Bertrand Louart - Radio Zinzine - 04 300 Limans <b.louart{at}no-log.org>


Alexander Grothendieck was certainly one of the greatest 20th century mathematicians. But if his name is still known today in the very restricted circle of researchers in mathematics and their students, it is certainly less so for the public with little or no science.

Indeed, at a time when researchers parade through the streets chanting "Save research!" in order to obtain additional credits and less humiliating working conditions without wanting for a moment to question the purpose of their work and their responsibility in the continuous deterioration of living conditions — including their own — Grothendieck's non-mathematical writings deserve to be better known.

In the 1970s, not only did this brilliant researcher resign not to put his talents at the service of an institution financed in (small) party by the Army, but he took a public stand — through his mathematics courses, lectures given in several countries and a journal of radical ecology which he would found with other scientists — against the pursuit of scientific research on the pretext that it is “a factor, among many others, threatening the survival of the human species” by being the main vector of technological innovation which allows the industrial capitalism to make the most of people and nature.

Here we are far from the corporatist claims of lab rats...

This brochure therefore reproduces three texts in which Grothendieck sets out the reasons for his disengagement from scientific research and his militant commitment in favor of the “ecological” movement.

One will find in these texts a certain optimism specific to the atmosphere protester of the 1970s and also a bit of naivety, especially on the nature of the Maoist regime in the People's China. It would seem that in the “left” scientific circles at that time, the illusions about this regime are fairly shared, despite the extremely crude nature of the Chinese propaganda which then echoed Western protest on some points.

Footnote: See, for example, (Self-)criticism of science (1973) or The ideology of/in science (1977) in the "open science" collection directed by Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond at Seuil editions.