French Math Humor

A British mathematician was giving a talk in Grothendieck’s seminar in Paris. He started “Let X be a variety…”. This caused some talking among the students sitting in the back, who were asking each other “What’s a variety?”. J.-P. Serre, sitting in the front row, turns around a bit annoyed and says “Integral scheme of finite type over a field”.

** Note: Some posts on Math-Fail are user-submitted and NOT verified by the admin of the site before publication. If you find this post to be distasteful, non-math related, ?or something worse?, then definitely leave a comment letting me know. Thanks very much! Mike **

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5.00 from 6 votes)


  1. I don’t get it.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

    • The way I interpret the joke is that Serre’s answer to the student’s won’t really help them; they didn’t know what “variety” meant in this context and the definition they were given by Serre is extremely abstract. I’m guessing there is an extra “hidden” punchline for those familiar with Serres work (which I’m not, unfortunately).

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0