Pierre Binétruy passed away

Pierre Binetruy

It is with great sadness that we must announce the death of our friend and colleague Pierre Binétruy on the first day of April.

French, European and world science has lost one of its most exemplary practitioners but also an exceptional human being.


Pierre Binétruy, born in 1955, received his doctorate in 1980 under the direction of Mary K Gaillard, entitled “Theoretical and Phenomenological Aspects of Gauge Theories”. From 1979 to 1986 he held several positions at CERN (fellow) and in the United States (University of California at Berkeley, University of Florida, University of Chicago). In 1986, he was recruited as a researcher at the LAPP, Annecy-le-Vieux and 4 years later as a professor at the University of Paris XI in the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics, where he became a professor of exceptional class in 1999. Since 2003 he was a professor at the  University Paris Diderot.

His main interests have evolved from high energy physics (notably supersymmetry) to cosmology and gravitation, and in particular the interface between the study of the primordial Universe and the theories of fundamental interactions. His recent interests included inflation models, dark energy, and gravitational wave cosmological backgrounds. During his prolific career, he published seminal papers that approached the 1000 citations each. For his research he has received several awards (Thibaud Prize, Paul Langevin Award from French Physical Socienty, Miller Professor 1996 in Berkeley). He was one of the most brilliant theorists of his time.

But his memory will also remain because, to paraphrase Andre Malraux, he combined “spirit and courage”, since he knew that it was necessary not only to seek scientific truth but also to have the courage to organize the community for the scientific goals that this truth imposes and also fight within the institutions to defend them.

The oldest members remember the extraordinary intellectual atmosphere that animated the Supersymmetry Research Group (GDR), which he proposed and directed from 1997 to 2004, transforming it into an unprecedented crossroad for experimenters and theorists, a melting pot of new ideas of both theory and of experimental analysis at the turn of the century.

He also had the central intuition,  towards mid-2015,  a time when the detection of gravitational waves was for many a distant dream to involve France through CNES in the space program of detection of gravitational waves: LisaPathfinder and Lisa. A scientific choice to which he devoted a great part of his dynamism and this until and during the days of his hospitalization.

APC researchers and engineers also remember the energy and dynamism that he put into the foundation of the Astroparticle and Cosmology Laboratory (APC) since 1999, following an incentive from Luc Valentin. He was the director of the APC until 2013. He accompanied this original endeavor of the Paris Diderot University and the IN2P3 / CNRS, the CEA and the Observatoire de Paris, with an inexhaustible inventiveness. We owe to him the firm involvement of the laboratory to Space Sciences, the interdisciplinary opening to the Earth Sciences, the realization of the importance of Data Sciences with the François Arago Center, the foundation with George Smoot, Nobel Prize in Cosmology,  of the Paris Center for Cosmological Physics (PCCP) and the immersion of the APC in a global network of equivalent centers  of excellence (for example, the Associated International Laboratory with KIPAC at SLAC, relations with the University of Chicago or KIT/Helmholtz at Karlsruhe).

He was also a professor, who inspired hundreds of students, and through the MOOC Gravity, in collaboration with G. Smoot, his courses reached thousands (96,000 enrolled). The expression of gratitude of the students but also of all those who followed him warmed the heart of Pierre but also of us, his colleagues. This MOOC was considered by Pierre  an avenue for the future; not a simple way to improve the visibility of the University, but a revolution in the way knowledge is diffused, similar to this of typography, and this revolution meant perhaps a new type of universities, and through them of society and humanity.

In parallel to these activities  (only four examples were chosen from among a multitude) Pierre found time to be president of the Fundamental Physics Advisory Group (2008-2010) and the Fundamental Physics Roadmap Committee (2009-2010) of ESA; the French consortium of the LISA space mission;  the Theory Division of the French Physical Society (1995-2003); the interdisciplinary section of the Astroparticle (2003-2004) and the Theory sections (2005-2008) of the CNRS. He was  finally the Director of the Endowment Fund “For Research and Training in the Physics of the Universe”.

He was also a member of the IN2P3 Scientific Committee (1996-2000), the APPEC Scientific Advisory Committee, the ApPIC working group of IUPAP, which he helped to create in 2013 and of which he was a key member until today, of the European Space Science Committee, the Scientific Program Committee (SPC) of the SLAC National Laboratory, the Evaluation Committee of the DOE Roadmap and the International Evaluation Committee of INFN (Italy) and NSERC (Canada). Finally, in recent years, he was a member of the CNRS Scientific Council.

This activity, pursued with enthusiasm and unfailing rigor, was accompanied by a great culture and sophistication, a profound knowledge of the arts, where he propelled several actions between art and science, and especially a great human quality. This quality has made that the news of his disappearance has been lived with great sadness throughout the world. As one of his eminent colleagues said of him: “Peter was one of those very exceptional people who was at the top of the game and, at the same time, a remarkably pleasant colleague. “

French science but also Europe and  the world has lost one of its exemplary practitioners.

Stavros Katsanevas APC Laboratory Director


  • Elizabeth Dologlou

    He was a great professor and scientist teaching difficult topics with an unbelievable simple but complete approach.

    I hope he will meet now the absolute truth of the whole universe and will get the supreme love,

    Bon voyage mon ami que Dieu vous benisse !

  • Mary Karen Solomon

    I am so sorry. I knew Pierre only through the Gravity on-line class, but he was wonderful. He had a gift for reaching out to people and involving them. I loved the course, and loved his humor and outgoing nature. He will be greatly missed. We need more people like him in this troubled world of ours.

  • Anna Skornyakova

    I still cannot believe it. Pierre was a great scientist and an amazing and inspiring person. My deep condolences to his colleagues, students, friends, family and all of us. He will be missed so much.

  • Ken Todd

    Pierre gave so much to us Gravity students, a journey not just through the universe but through ourselves to a sense of achievement no small thing in this selfish world, I feel a deep sense of loss.
    My condolences to all who knew and loved him.

  • Neil Howell

    Shocked and saddened. I only knew Pierre through the Futurelearn Gravity course that he ran but I was so impressed by his passion for the subject and the way he was able to explain difficult concepts with ease, all the more impressive since he was speaking in a foreign language. He rekindled my interest in this area.

  • Gavin Wilkinson

    He helped me achieve my first science learning goal, I actually finished the course and got a certificate. A great teacher. Sending strength and love to his nearest and dearest. Rest well.

  • Peter Johnson

    I was so saddened to hear of Pierres death, I took part in his online course ” Gravity ” some time ago and remember him as an amazing educator who loved his subject and because of this, enthuse thousands of others to study and understand a very difficult subject.

  • Andy Briggs

    So dreadfully sorry to hear this tragic news. I really enjoyed and appreciated his hosting of the excellent “Gravity”course. RIP Pierre, and thank you.

  • Bill

    I am shocked to hear the very sad news. Pierre was an inspirational presenter and teacher. I very much enjoyed his Gravity course. My condolences to his family and friends. R.I.P.

  • Richard

    I am so saddened to hear this. I too took his course on Gravity and the Big Bang, a course he presented with grace, dignity and respect. He shared his knowledge with patience and understanding and, to those of us who are not physicists, planted the seeds of trying to understand the worlds beyond our world. My heart goes out to his family, friends, and colleagues.

  • Dorothy Tully-Petersen

    So sad! Along with my other Gravity course students who’ve said it well, I very much appreciated him sharing his mind and time! My sympathies to his family, friends & colleagues, and to his many students!

  • John Cochrane

    I feel deeply saddened by the death of Pierre Binétruy. He will be solely missed. It was partly because of his enthusiasm that I thoroughly enjoyed the course on Gravity.

  • Marilyn Steigmann

    Shocked and saddened at this news. Pierre used his exceptional gifts in this complex field, but also gave of his time to help us lesser mortals to climb a little further up the ladder of knowledge.
    My deepest sympathy to all who mourn him.

  • Wendy Smith

    I am so sorry to hear about Pierre. My thoughts are with his family and friends. I am so grateful to have been part of his inspiring on-line course.

  • Lisa Osepowicz

    Oh, no. I am so sorry to hear this. I knew Dr. Benetruy through the FutureLearn Gravity class. He was so wonderfully charismatic, even in that medium. And a brilliant scholar on top of it all. I learned so much from him. My heart goes out to his friends, colleagues, and family, as I’m sure he was cherished by them.

  • Michael Anthony Demitre

    Rest in Peace Pierre. We All meet again.

  • Rocio

    So sorry. So sad. A great teaxher and a great man. Still difficult to believe he is not with us. But he will stay with his pasion and our love for him. Thank you Pierre!

  • Dhruba Sen

    First reaction is shock, second disbelief, third and a prolonged one is sadness. I am so sorry to hear that Pierre passed away. I knew him only fro the Gravity course and he seemed to me quite young and full of life. So it is even sadder that such an enthusiast to disseminate scientific ideas is no longer with us. As I said I only knew him from the Gravity course. He was a great teacher and could make difficult concept easy to understand. He cleared up some of the questions that had dogged me for years. I developed A great deal of respect for him. I had hoped that he may do a follow up and more in depth course on Gravity. I shall miss him

    Let me take this opportunity to send my sympathies to his family and friends. This must be very difficult time for them. I hope they can find peace in the thought that Pierre and his teaching inspired many all through the world.

  • Steve Bryant

    So sad to learn that Pierre has passed away. I knew him only through the Gravity! MOOC. His enthusiasm, dry humour, and his ability to translate such a complex subject into a form a non-physicist like me could comprehend made all the difference to the course and to my understanding of this most interesting subject. He will be sorely missed. I would like to extend my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. Onwards to the singularity, Pierre!

  • Carolyn Trotman

    Into the event horizon Pierre! May the journey be something to behold. Your passionate scholarship will be missed in this time frame.

  • tess

    i did the ‘Gravity’ MOOC on FL by Pierre Binétruy. When i got the notification about an hour ago, i thought it was an April Fool’s joke or sthg….’It is with great sadness that we must announce the death of our friend and colleague Pierre Binétruy on the first day of April.’

    I googled up the news but came up with nothing on his death. Could someone pls tell what happened to him?

  • Patsy Millar

    So sad to hear about Pierre’s passing. I found his presentational style on the Gravitation course most inspiring. My sympathies to his relatives and friends.

  • Ajay Henry

    Pierre was not only a great scientist, but an equally great educator. He passed too young.

  • Roma Giehl

    It is with much sadness that I heard Prof. Pierre passed away. Like many of the others I only knew him through the MOOC’s Gravity Course and yet I felt that he had a very special closeness to us all. A great scientist and mentor who inspired me so much in the field of science, a subject which I had no previous knowledge of. There is one thing I know for sure is that I will always remember him for helping me find this great beauty in understanding science at the age of 70 – Words fail me, I humbly thank you Prof. Pierre.

    I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family, loved ones, friends and his team and hope you all find the strength to go through this very difficult period. I close with a prayer for his family and a quotation from Shakespeare: ” Everyone can master grief, except he that has it”

  • Shaun de Witt

    I have just heard about this. Like many others I only knew Pierre Binétruy through the Gravity MOOC. Tragic news. It was evident even from this that he had enthusiasm, dynamism and a real love for his subject and sharing it’s beauty. God speed.

  • Dinitha Bulathsinghala

    I have just heard about the tragic passing away of Pierre. I took the course Gravity! due to my interest in astrophysics in my spare time. Pierre did an amazing job in communicating advanced physics concepts through this course. It kept me coming back to finish the whole course just because his explanations were quite logical and entertaining to follow. We have lost a great scientist and a wonderful human being, I regret not having the chance to meet him in person. May his soul rest in peace.

  • Paul Plumb

    I have just received a sad email notification from FL informing me that Pierre passed away at the beginning of April. As one of his MOOC students, I did not know him personally, but benefited from his expertise and enthusiasm through the Gravity! course. His commitment to the concept of open learning was nothing less than inspirational and his endless patience with those of us who struggled with the intricacies of Einstein’s theories was exemplary and greatly appreciated by us all. My sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues; he will be missed not only by them, but also by us and the wider worlds of science and education. Enjoy the journey to your new destination, Pierre.

  • Edwin de Corti

    I have just heard the news of Pierre’s passing through an email from Futurelearn. I was quite shocked and sad to hear this. It seems his passing was sudden, because I have not heard of any serious ilness. I also knew Pierre only through the Gravity! course. He was a great teacher with a good sense of humour and very enthousiastic and patient. He really took the time to answer everybody’s questions. I can honestly say that I learned alot from his course!

  • Christine Stewart

    I heard today that Prof. Pierre Binétruy had passed away earlier this month. I am so very sad. I did the Gravity Course and am very grateful to Pierre and his colleagues for an introduction to the subject (I am 73). Pierre was an excellent teacher and very charismatic, and on the course I felt as if he was talking to me alone!

    I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family, loved ones, friends, students and his team. As someone has said on this page “Bon voyage Pierre. Dieu vous benisse.” “Good journey Pierre. God bless you.”

  • Liba Kaucky

    I am saddened by the news of the passing away of Professor Pierre Binetruy. I studied his online gravity course and loved it. He will be sorely missed!

  • Carol Gooding

    Prof. Pierre made the Gravity class interesting, informative, and enjoyable. He will be missed among the scientific community and especially by his family, friends, and students (who also considered him a friend). My sympathy goes to everyone involved with him and most importantly to those closest to him. He will be missed.

  • I am truly saddened to read about Prof. Pierre Binétruy passing away. His teaching was intelligent, creative and thought provoking. I am sure his journey is now in another dimension of his universal diamond; teaching somewhere new. My condolences to Pierre’s family and friends.

  • Nigel Palk

    So saddened by this news. Like many I did the Gravity course which I thought was absolutely brilliant. Pierre was a truly inspirational teacher leaving me with a now lifelong interest and passion for the subject. May the event horizon be a thing of of wonders to behold and you have the answers you were searching for. Condolences to his loved ones, family and all his colleagues at this sad time.

  • Steven Janes

    I was so very sorry to hear about Pierre’s passing away. Like so many of us here, he touched me with his humour and his ability to make something very complex to be easily understandable. I remember his enthusiasm as he hosted the hangout to watch preparations for the Lisa Pathfinder mission, and the excitement as proof for Gravitational Waves was finally made. He will be missed…

  • Anna Skornyakova

    I want to write a bit more, maybe now I will be able, I am in tears day by day, it is so big and unexpected loss. I was one of those lucky learners that came to Paris in February 2016 especially to meet Pierre and his wonderful colleagues and participate in Gravitational Wave Fiesta. Pierre, professor, one of the world’s top theoretical physicists, turned out to be so nice, simple, funny and friendly person, I was really astonished by him. I think his students must have adored him, he was the most charismatic teacher I ever met. The workshop was amazing, so interesting and informative, I could not have believed I really was there. It will remain one of the brightest remembrances in my life.
    Pierre revealed to me the world full of miracles. I was so inspired after the first run of the Gravity! course, I could not help continuing to study physics, astrophysics and math. I am still so enthusiastic and fascinated by them, have done many MOOCs and keep on doing them. Many of my hopes for the future were related to Pierre’s plans of building the course Ouantum! and new meetings and workshops.
    Dear Marie, Jean-Luc, Stavros, I am crying together with all of you, this is my personal tragedy too. Thank you so much for your post with Pierre’s biography, and for the letter to all learners. It is very important to know that he was enjoying the course as well as we were. Also thank you for the foundation of the grant bearing his name. I have already donated some money for this purpose via my husband’s pay pall, and if I happen to be able to do something else, just let me know, I will do my best. Though I still cannot accept the fact that so dynamic and truly alive Pierre is becoming a memory. For me this memory will always be priceless. The world dimmed without him.
    Yours, Anna

  • Marilyn Steigmann

    Dear Anna,
    I was so moved by your words. How wonderful to have actually met this great man. I recently completed the Gravity Course and did not realise that Pierre was so soon to be lost to us. I had already started to anticipate the Quantum course.

    Newton said that, if he had seen further it was because he had stood on the shoulders of giants. I think Pierre is without. Doubt a giant upon whose shoulders a whole new generation of physicists will see further…..

    • Anna Skornyakova

      Dear Merilyn, I am sure you are right, many of future top physicists will remember Pierre as the first person who inspired them. In this sense he is still alive and will live very long. But we do not have a chance to meet him anymore, to learn something new from him, to enjoy his brilliant manner of teaching and his sense of humor. It makes me cry again and again.

  • Helen

    So sorry to hear Pierre Binétruy has passed on. Also only knew him through the Gravity! MOOC, but he seemed to be having such fun. A sad day. My condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

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