Brussels, 08 Feb 2005
Hubert Curien, the first president of the European Space Agency (ESA) and 'father' of the Ariane rocket died on 6 February at the age of 80.
A physicist, Mr Curien also studied mineralogy and discovered a new form of crystallised gallium. He then went on to manage research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in 1966, serving as director from 1969 to 1973.
In 1976, Hubert Curien became director of France's National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), and in parallel became the first president of the European Space Agency (ESA) in 1979. He was instrumental in persuading ESA members to fund the development of the Ariane programme to give Europe access to space independent of the US and the then Soviet Union.
Mr Curien also served as France's Minister of Research from 1984 to 1986, and from 1988 to 1993, when he was voted into the Science Academy, of which he later became president. He was also awarded the Légion d'Honneur, France's most prestigious award.
All through his life he continued to teach crystallography at the University of Jussieu in Paris so as to keep in touch with education.
EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik paid tribute to Hubert Curien, describing him as an outstanding architect of European research and stating: 'if something like a scientific Europe exists today, it is in great part thanks to him. He has played a key role in the history of European scientific cooperation.'
According to Mr Potocnik, Mr Curien was the driving force behind the creation of the European Science Foundation (ESF), and was also deeply involved in the creation of the European radiation source (ESRF) in Grenoble and the launch of the Eureka initiative.
'Hubert Curien worked tirelessly towards the construction of true European research. His contribution to the definition and the implementation of EU research policy was substantial and decisive. Hubert Curien was involved in setting up the first European mobility programmes for researchers and in the launch of the Esprit programme. On various aspects, as expert and as minister of research, he contributed to shaping and developing the EU research Framework Programme and to giving it the form it has today, 'added the Commissioner.
'In many respects, we are still living from his ideas. Like my predecessors, I rely on his legacy in building tomorrow's EU research policy,' concluded Mr Potocnik.