The idea that Churchill College might host visiting Fellows sponsored by the French Government was the brainchild of Sir John (Jock) Colville (1915-1987), seemingly to provide an explicit way for France to contribute to Sir Winston’s memorial. Colville had been Churchill’s Private Secretary during and after the Second World War; he was very well connected in diplomatic and financial circles and had been instrumental in helping to raise funds for the establishment of the College. He was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1971 and continued to work enthusiastically on behalf of the College.
In February 1975, apparently on his own initiative, he wrote to the French Ambassador in London, M. Jaques de Beaumarchais, suggesting that the French Government might like to fund a Fellowship at Churchill College, to be held by visiting French academics. He listed the five Frenchmen who had held Overseas Fellowships at the College in the preceding decade (two professors of physics and three of French literature) and suggested that, given the science bias of the College, support for French scientists might be most appropriate.
Following consultation with the French Government the Ambassador responded in July with an offer of 100,000 Francs to initiate a Fellowship scheme, which the College gratefully accepted, and a formal exchange of letters took place in early 1976. Colville’s subsequent attempts to secure additional funds from Mme. Pol Roger and Moet & Chandon (a nod to Churchill’s love of champagne), as a permanent endowment, were unsuccessful.
The first two academics specifically sponsored by the French Government came to Churchill College in the autumn of 1976: Dr Christian Colliex, a physicist based in CNRS, Université de Paris Sud, who collaborated with Archie Howie and Prof Claude Bergman, a physiologist from Université de Paris VII, who worked with Richard Keynes. Early visitors were given the title of Fellow Commoner, but from 1983 they were accorded the status of Overseas Fellow. Since 1976, Churchill College has welcomed 57 French academics as French Government Fellows, usually for periods between 6 months and a year. The complete list appears below.
Celebratory events were organised in College to mark the 30th and 40th anniversaries of the French Government Fellowship scheme, with booklets to record some of the memories and impressions of past Fellows. More information about these events can be found at:
The past Fellows have also formed themselves into an informal Association that meets annually in the College and maintains contacts through churchillconnect.com
Applications for French Government Fellowships are managed by the Science Counsellor at the French Embassy in London.The Embassy issues an annual call for applications in France, and prepares a short-list of applications received for consideration by the College’s Fellowship Electors. Fellowships are now offered without restriction on subject or seniority, 2, 3 or 4 each year as funds allow.
|Feix||Marc||1980||Theoretical Plasma Physics|
|Janot||Christian||1981||Solid State Physics|
|Friedel||Jacques||1983||Solid State Physics|
|de Bougrenet de la Tocnaye||Jean-Louis||1997||Engineering|
|Lavery||Richard||2003||Biology & Physical Chemistry|
|Jami||Catherine||2004||History of Chinese Mathematics|
|Gaigeot||Marie-Pierre||2008||Physics & Physical Chemistry|
|Ganier||Emmanuel||2012||Climate & Health|
|Rouquette||Sebastien||2013||Mechanical & Civil Engineering|
|Thalabard||Jean-Christophe||2013||Human Reproductive Ecology|