École Normale Supérieure Notable Alumni

Throughout its history, a sizeable number of ENS alumni, some of them known as normaliens, have become notable in many varied fields, both academic and otherwise, ranging from Louis Pasteur, the chemist and microbiologist famed for inventing pasteurisation, to philologist Georges Dumézil, novelist Julien Gracq and socialist Prime Minister Léon Blum.

Mathematics and physics
Évariste Galois, the founder of Galois theory and group theory, was an early student at ENS, then still called École préparatoire, in the 1820s, at the same time as fellow mathematician Augustin Cournot. Though mathematics continued to be taught at the school throughout the 19th century, its real dominance of the mathematic sphere would not emerge till after the First World War, with a young generation of mathematicians led by André Weil, known for his foundational work in number theory and algebraic geometry (also the brother of fellow student, philosopher Simone Weil). This rejuvenation continued into the 1930s, as exemplified by the 1935 launch of the influential Nicolas Bourbaki project, whose work permeated the field of mathematics throughout the 20th century. In 1940 former student Henri Cartan was appointed professor at the school like his father Élie Cartan, carrying the school's importance in the field still further with his work in algebraic topology. His teaching, which continued till 1965, was vastly influential in shaping his students, who included Yvonne Bruhat, Gustave Choquet, Jacques Dixmier, Roger Godement, René Thom and Jean-Pierre Serre.

Since the 1936 establishment of the Fields Medal, often called the "Nobel Prize for mathematics", ten normaliens have been recipients, contributing to ENS's reputation as one of the world's foremost training grounds for mathematicians: Laurent Schwartz, Jean-Pierre Serre (also a recipient of the inaugural Abel Prize in 2003), René Thom, Alain Connes, Jean-Christophe Yoccoz, Pierre-Louis Lions, Laurent Lafforgue, Wendelin Werner, Cédric Villani and Ngô Bảo Châu. All French holders of the prize were educated at ENS. Alexander Grothendieck, also a Fields medallist, though he was not a normalien, received a substantial part of his training at the school. These eleven former students have made ENS the institution with the most Fields medallist alumni of any institution worldwide. Former student Yves Meyer was also awarded the Abel prize.

In addition, eight normaliens have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics: Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, Albert Fert, Alfred Kastler, Gabriel Lippmann, Louis Néel, Jean Baptiste Perrin and Serge Haroche, while other ENS physicists include such major figures as Paul Langevin, famous for developing Langevin dynamics and the Langevin equation. Alumnus Paul Sabatier won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. A ranking of universities worldwide based on ratios of alumni to Nobel prize-winners published in 2016 by American scholars Stephen Hsu and Jonathan Wai placed ENS as the first university worldwide, far ahead of the universities ranked second and third, California Institute of Technology and Harvard University respectively.

Its position as a leading institution in the training of the critical spirit has made ENS into France's premier training ground for future philosophers and producers of what has been called by some "French theory". Its position as a philosophical birthplace can be traced back to its very beginnings, with Victor Cousin a student in the early 19th century. Two ENS philosophers won the Nobel Prize in Literature for their writings, Henri Bergson and Jean-Paul Sartre. Raymond Aron, the founder of French anti-communist thought in the 1960s and Sartre's great adversary, was a student from the same year as Sartre, and they were both near contemporaries of phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, musicologist Vladimir Jankélévitch and historian of philosophy Maurice de Gandillac. In Sèvres, in the ENS for young women, philosopher and mystic Simone Weil was accomplishing her years of study at the same time. Jean Hyppolite, the founder of Hegelian studies in France, also studied at the school at this time and later influenced many of its students. Epistemologists Georges Canguilhem and Jean Cavaillès, the latter also known as a Résistance hero, were educated at ENS as well.

Later, Marxist political thinker Louis Althusser was a student at ENS and taught there for many years, and many of his disciples later became known for their own thought: among them were Étienne Balibar, philosopher Alain Badiou, who still teaches at the school as an emeritus professor, and Jacques Rancière. Still later, in the 1940s and 1950s, the world-renowned thinker Michel Foucault, founder of the history of systems of thought and future professor at the Collège de France was a student a few years ahead of the founder of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida and the thinker of individuation Gilbert Simondon. The tradition continues today through such philosophers as Jacques Bouveresse, Jean-Luc Marion, Claudine Tiercelin, Francis Wolff and Quentin Meillassoux, and the school has also produced prominent public intellectuals like Stéphane Hessel and such New Philosophers as Bernard-Henri Lévy and Benny Lévy.

Contributing to ENS's role as the centre of the structuralist school of thought, alongside Althusser and Foucault, major psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan taught there in the 1960s, notably giving his course, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, in 1964. This period of his teaching is significant as it is the one in which it acquired "a much larger audience" than before and represented a "change of front" from his previous work. During this time the school became a focal point of the École freudienne de Paris, and many of Lacan's disciples were educated there, including psychoanalysts Jacques-Alain Miller and Jean-Claude Milner, the first president of the World Association of Psychoanalysis.

History and literature
One of the school's foremost specialities has always been the teaching of history, and as such it has produced a large number of renowned historians who have been important in the development of their subject, starting with Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, Ernest Lavisse and Jérôme Carcopino, all students of the school in the second half of the nineteenth century who later would come back to direct it. Around the turn of the century two men who would become the founders of the Annales School, Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre, studied at the school. Jacqueline de Romilly and Pierre Grimal, respectively historians of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, were both students at the school starting in 1933. Sinologist Marcel Granet, medievalist Jacques Le Goff, Egyptologist Gaston Maspero, archeologist Paul Veyne, Ancien Régime specialist Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie and Pre-Columbian civilisation anthropologist Jacques Soustelle were all students at the school, as well as Georges Dumézil, who revolutionised comparative philology and mythography with his analyses of sovereignty in Proto-Indo-European religion and formulated the trifunctional hypothesis of social class in ancient societies.

The school has a long-standing reputation as a training ground for men and women of letters, and its alumni include novelist and dramatist Jean Giraudoux, many of whose plays among which The Trojan War Will Not Take Place and Amphitryon 38 have become staple elements of the French theatrical repertory and novelist Julien Gracq, particularly renowned for his 1951 novel The Opposing Shore. Jules Romains, the founder of Unanimism, essayists Paul Nizan and Robert Brasillach, novelist Romain Rolland and poet Charles Péguy are a few other examples of major authors who were educated there. The founder of the influential Négritude movement, Martinican poet Aimé Césaire, prepared and passed the entrance exam from the Lycée Louis-le-Grand where he was friends with future President of Senegal and fellow Négritude author Léopold Sédar Senghor, who failed the entrance exam. Around this same period Algerian novelist, essayist and filmmaker Assia Djebar, who would become one of the most prominent voices of Arab feminism, was a student at the school. Later, Belgian author Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, author of the 2002 novel Oscar and the Lady in Pink, also did his studies there, as well as literary critics and theorists Paul Bénichou, Jean-Pierre Richard and Gérard Genette. Poet Paul Celan and Nobel Prize in Literature winner Samuel Beckett were both teachers at the school.

Social sciences and economics
There is a tradition of social sciences at the school, as evidenced by the fact that Émile Durkheim, one of the founders of sociology, was a student at the school in 1879, around the same time as Théodule Ribot, a psychologist well known for developing Ribot's Law. Pierre Bourdieu, who studied dynamics of power in society and its transmission over generations, achieved worldwide fame with his 1979 book Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste and became a vocal critic of the French system of grandes écoles and notably ENS as the standard-bearer of that system, studied at ENS in the early 1950s. Other ENS sociologists and anthropologists include Maurice Halbwachs, Alain Touraine and Philippe Descola. The school also has a tradition of geography, with the founder of modern French geography and of the French School of Geopolitics Paul Vidal de La Blache having been a student at the school starting in 1863.

As for economics, its history at the school is less long, as it was not among the subjects first taught at the school. However, Gérard Debreu won the 1983 Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, and there is a growing output of economists from ENS, as evidenced by the young generation of French economists represented by Emmanuel Saez, winner of the 2009 John Bates Clark Medal, Esther Duflo, who won the same medal in 2010, and Thomas Piketty, author of the 2013 bestseller Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Since its creation in 2000, ten of the twenty recipients of the Prize of the best young French economist have been ENS alumni, including Antoine Bozio (who now teaches at EHESS), Camille Landais (LSE), Emmanuel Farhi (Harvard), Pascaline Dupas (Stanford) and Xavier Gabaix (Harvard).

Government and politics
ENS has never had a public policy division, but some of its students have become leading statesmen and politicians. Third Republic Prime Ministers Jules Simon, Léon Blum, Édouard Herriot and Paul Painlevé as well as socialist leader Jean Jaurès were early examples of this trend. At this time, quite a few ENS former students and intellectuals were drawn to socialism, such as Pierre Brossolette who became a Résistance hero and a major national leader during World War II. The institution has continued to be seen as a left-wing school since then. Later, as ENS came increasingly to be seen by some as an antechamber to the École nationale d'administration, more young students drawn to politics and public policy began to be attracted to it, such as future President of the Republic Georges Pompidou, Prime Ministers Alain Juppé and Laurent Fabius, and ministers such as Bruno Le Maire and Michel Sapin, respectively the current and former Ministers of Finance of France.