Maurice Allais devoted a great part of his life to his numerous teaching roles in the world of higher education, finding them particularly worthwhile. He greatly appreciated the stimulating exchanges with the young which this work provided.
He was professor of economics at the Paris École Nationale Supérieure des Mines for over forty years, from 1944 to 1988, and was deeply attached to this renowned centre of higher education at which he directed, from 1946 onwards, the Economic Analysis Centre, a research centre affiliated with both the CNRS and the École des Mines. His strong personality ensured that many generations of École des Mines students retain vivid memories of him.
He also taught in several other institutes of higher education, both in France and abroad :
- from 1947 to 1968, he was Professor of Theoretical Economics at the University of Paris Institute of Statistics ;
- in 1958-1959, he was “Distinguished Visiting Scholar” at the Thomas Jefferson Centre of the University of Virginia (USA) ;
- from 1967-1970 he was Professor of Economics at the Geneva Graduate Institute of International Studies ;
- from 1970 to 1985 he was teaching in partnership with his wife Jacqueline* at the University of Paris X-Nanterre where he directed the Clément Juglar Monetary Analysis Centre.
Throughout his career he delivered many lectures and seminars in foreign universities and took part in many international symposia.
* Complementary to Maurice Allais’s teaching at the École des Mines, Jacqueline Allais was to animate “small classes” from 1980 to 1988.
Maurice Allais’s idea of how science should be taught
“Teaching must be based on the concrete. Abstraction is undoubtedly necessary, but it can be justified only as far as it rests on the concrete and prepares the explanation of phenomena and their uses. (…)
“To be efficient, any teaching must be accompanied by overviews, giving the main guiding lines of the subject (…)
“All teaching must also be accompanied by critical analyses of the significance and scope of the experiments and corresponding models and theories (…)
“Mathematics must be taught in such a way as to be seen as a usefool tool for explorating the reality. (…)
“Teaching cannot be efficient unless it is not accompanied by written texts. Classwork should be used primarily to comment on these written texts and to exchange views with the students.
“In point of fact the only real advantage of oral teaching is the presence of a teacher who can answer the students’ questions and comment on the difficulties of the questions dealt with. (…)
“The main object of all teaching is to prepare the students to be capable of analyzing efficiently and thoroughly any questions that may arise during their professional careers (…)”
(Extracts from “ The scientific training ”
In Advances in Econometrics, Income Distribution and Scientifical Methodology – Essays in honor of Camilo Dagum, Springer-Verlag, 1999, pp. 321-330)
An educator open to the debates of his day: the success of the GRECS
In tandem with his official academic instruction, Maurice Allais also provided more informal teaching in the context of the Economic and Social Research Group (GRECS), which he founded with Auguste Detoeuf (who died prematurely in 1947) and which he chaired from 1945 to 1969.
The GRECS regularly organized talks by personalities representing the widest range of opinions in the various sectors of economic activity: engineers, academics, businessmen, trades union leaders, politicians. All the major topical subjects of the post-war era were on the agenda.
For nine years, from 1945 to 1983, the GRECS meetings were held in the hall on the first floor of the Café Saint-Sulpice. All who took part in them bear witness to the extraordinary atmosphere which reigned there. Beginning with some twenty participants, the number exceeded 40 by 1946, later rising to 80. Presentations began at 19.45 and the often passionate debates continued until 23.45, with a twenty-minute break between the two for participants (typically about one third students and two thirds outside personalities) to order refreshments.
From 1953 onwards, owing to lack of space at the premises of the Café Saint-Sulpice, GRECS meetings moved to what had been Lecture-Hall B at the École des Mines. The atmosphere changed somewhat, without detriment to either interest or enthusiasm. On some occasions there were over a hundred present and, as before in the Café Saint-Sulpice days, some participants had to stand. Discussions continued often late into the night in the district’s cafés.