Lehto's closing address to the International Congress in Warsaw

The 1982 International Congress of Mathematicians was held in Warsaw in August 1983. The work on the Congress is recorded in Zbigniew Ciesielski and Czeslaw Olech (eds.), Proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians August 16-24, 1983, Warsaw (Polish Scientific Publishers, Warsaw, 1984). The closing session of the Congress took place in Congress Hall of the Palace of Culture on 24 August 1983 at 12.15. Professor Olli Lehto, the Secretary of the International Mathematical Union, delivered the following address:


Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

It has been customary at the closing session of the Congress to present a report on the activities of the previous General Assembly of the International Mathematical Union. Usually, the General Assembly is held just before the Congress, but this time, the 1982 General Assembly took place already a year ago. It was held here in Warsaw and was attended by the delegates of almost all member countries of the International Mathematical Union. With some experience from previous assemblies, I found that the Warsaw meeting had an exceptionally friendly atmosphere.

The resolutions of this General Assembly have been published in an issue of the International Mathematical Union Bulletin which has been distributed long ago. Therefore, I think there is no reason to go into details here now.

As you may well guess, much of the discussion at the General Assembly centered around the ICM-82. The decision to hold the 1982 Congress in Warsaw was made by the International Mathematical Union Site Committee in Finland in 1978. It was regarded as a very good decision, justified by the fine mathematical tradition in Poland and by the fact that Poland seemed to be easily accessible to mathematicians no matter which part of the world they came from. For three years, the organization of the Congress was running smoothly. But as we all know, difficulties started at the end of 1981, just at the time when the main pre-Congress document, the Second Announcement, was being sent out.

The changed situation put the mathematicians to a waiting position, as it was not known whether the Congress could be held. It soon became clear that, in spite of the new conditions, the Poles were willing to continue their efforts for organizing the Congress. However, in April 1982 the Executive Committee of International Mathematical Union arrived at the conclusion that conditions for a scientifically good congress did not exist in August 1982. Making the final decision about the Congress was postponed till November. This procedure was endorsed by the General Assembly, which also provided the Executive Committee with much useful advice.

It was not an easy task for the Executive Committee to reach a decision. But after weighing the pros and contras, the Executive Committee unanimously decided that the ICM-82 be held in Warsaw in August 1983.

It is of course not up to me to make a general evaluation in public of whether our decision was correct or not. But let me say that I feel very happy that the ICM-82 now took place here. The continuity of international cooperation was maintained, and in spite of regrettable absences of some invited speakers, this was a high class meeting from the scientific point of view.

The positive feeling towards this Congress is also largely due to the excellent work done by our Polish colleagues. We have all seen how well everything is functioning, and we have sensed the warm and friendly atmosphere of the Congress. All this can only be achieved by the joint effort of a large number of people. Our thanks are due to all of them, the more so, as the work has been carried out under such difficult circumstances.

An exceptionally heavy load has been on the shoulders of one person, the chairman of the Organizing Committee and President of ICM-82, Professor Czeslaw Olech. His skill and strength have largely contributed to the success of this Congress.

At the time of the General Assembly, we did not know whether ICM-82 would be held. Nevertheless, it was then already time to think of the 1986 Congress. The General Assembly confirmed the decision of the IMU Site Committee to accept the invitation of the United States National Academy of Sciences to ICM-86 at the University of California, Berkeley.

The International Mathematical Union has a Special Development Fund whose principal aim is to help young mathematicians from developing countries to take part in ICM's. This time, the Union was able to give grants to 33 mathematicians from 21 different countries. Since the funds of the Union are limited, the success of this important project depends largely on donations made to the Special Development Fund. Fund raising for ICM-86 has already started, in that an appeal was recently sent to the National Committees for Mathematics of the member countries of the International Mathematical Union.

Let me conclude by emphasizing the basic principle of the International Mathematical Union that politics should never find a foothold within the Union. As individuals, we may of course have whatever political views we choose, but when it amounts to organized international cooperation in mathematics, then political aspects should be put aside entirely. Our fine science should be the uniting link between us and make us in a true sense one big mathematical family.


JOC/EFR January 2013

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