David Ruelle

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David Ruelle (1973)

David Pierre Ruelle (born August 20, 1935 in Ghent , Belgium ) is a Belgian-French physicist , mathematician and university professor . His main field of work is mathematical physics . He made important contributions to statistical mechanics , quantum field theory and chaos theory .


Ruelle first studied civil engineering at the University of Mons (diploma in 1955) and also physics and mathematics, which he continued at the Université Libre de Bruxelles . In 1957 he received his diploma in physics, in 1959 he did his doctorate with Res Jost at the ETH Zurich on axiomatic quantum field theory. After military service from 1959 to 1960 he became an assistant and private lecturer in Zurich. From 1962 to 1964 and 1970 to 1971 he was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton . From 1964 until his retirement in 2000 he was a professor at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES) in Bures-sur-Yvette near Paris , where he is now an honorary professor. Since then he was u. a. Visiting Professor at Rutgers University .

Ruelle has been married since 1960 and has three children. He has been a French citizen since 1984.


Ruelle made fundamental contributions to the mathematical investigation of statistical mechanics, to the theory of dynamic systems and to chaos theory. His investigations into strange attractor phenomena in dynamic systems are known (Ruelle introduced the term with Floris Takens ) and, related to it, the Ruelle-Takens scenario of the development of turbulence. Before that, Lew Landau (1944) usually assumed a path into chaos (or turbulence in liquids) by stimulating an ever larger number of independent modes ("eddies"). According to Ruelle / Takens, there was the possibility of a completely different, abrupt transition in just a few steps. The phase space contracts on the low-dimensional fractal structure of a "strange attractor". This sudden transition was qualitatively confirmed by Harry Swinney and Jerry Gollub (Physical Review Letters Volume 35, 1975, p. 927) using the example of the Taylor-Couette flow between two cylinders rotating in opposite directions. Other possible ways into chaos (such as period doubling according to May, James Yorke et al., Intermittenz) were found later . It is still unknown which path is taken in the turbulence of liquids.

Prices and memberships

Ruelle has been a member of the French ( Académie des Sciences ) since 1985 and of the US American Academy of Sciences ( National Academy of Sciences ) since 2002 . He has been a member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei since 2003 , he is a member of the Academia Europaea , a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society and he has been an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1992 .

In 1989 he became a Knight of the Legion of Honor . In 1983 he gave a plenary lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) in Warsaw ( Turbulent Dynamical Systems ) and in 1970 he was invited speaker at the ICM in Nice ( Etats d´equilibre des systemes infinis en mecanique statistique ).


  • Chance and Chaos . Springer (first French 1991)
  • Statistical mechanics - rigorous results . New York, Benjamin 1969
  • Thermodynamic formalism . Addison-Wesley 1978
  • Dynamic Zetafunctions and piecewise monotone maps of the interval . American Mathematical Society, 1994
  • Turbulence, strange attractors and chaos . World Scientific 1995 (reprints)
  • Chaotic evolution and strange attractors . Cambridge 1989
  • Elements of differentiable dynamics and bifurcation theory . Academic Press 1989
  • with F. Takens: On the nature of turbulence . In: Communications in Mathematical Physics . Volume 20, 1971, pp. 167-192, errata Volume 23, 1971, p. 343
  • Strange attractors . Mathematical Intelligencer 1980
  • with J.-P. Eckmann: Ergodic theory of chaos and strange attractors . In: Reviews of Modern Physics . Volume 57, 1985, p. 617
  • On the asymptotic condition in Quantum Field Theory . In: Helvetica Physica Acta . Volume 35, 1962, pp. 147-163 (Haag-Ruelle theory)
  • Turbulence, Strange Attractors and Chaos (reprints of his essays), World Scientific, Singapore 1995
  • What makes mathematicians tick . Springer, 2010 (first The Mathematician's Brain . Princeton University Press 2007)

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