Dad's Visit to Paris in 1979

Dad & Peter at the Paris Opera House. Click here for larger image. The National Science Foundation and Centre Européen de Calcul Atomique et Moléculaire awarded me a travel grant
and complete living expenses for six weeks in Paris (July 16-August 30, 1979), where I did research at the "Protein Folding Workshop" at the University of Paris, Orsay. I lived right next to the Sorbonne University at Hotel Sorbonne on Rue Victor Cousin. Dad visited me from August 16-30, and we had a two lovely weeks together when I finished work and on the weekends. While we were having breakfast in my room, Dad peered out of the window and said, “This view of the Sorbonne University looks familiar. This place used to be a dormitory. I may have even stayed in this room 50 years ago.”
Dad did his graduate studies at the Sorbonne (1929-31) and wrote his thesis on “The Irish Rebellion: April 26, 1916” under Professor Pierre Renouvin. Dad also attended the 3rd & 6th United Nations General Assembly Sessions in Paris in 1948 and 1951-52. In 1948, he bought Mom a beautiful oval pin of the Eiffel Tower, which she loved wearing. He gave sis a lovely French doll, and for my brother and me tin soldiers, one who was Napoleon. Dad took me to see his old friend Prof. Eliaseff
at an Asian Museum, who signed for me a set of Tun-Huang Bodhisattva postcards by Chang Dai-chien. Dad's mentor Pierre Renouvin had died in 1974, but he visited Madame Renouvin's home at 2 Boulevard Saint Germain for lunch one afternoon while I was at work. Dad was delighted to receive a postcard from his old friend Joseph Needham inviting him for a visit to Cambridge University, London. Dad met Professor Needham when they were both teaching at Szechwan University during World War II. Needham changed his career from biochemistry to history of Chinese science. His Science and Civilization in China is so encyclopedic that even Chinese scholars hold him in awe and reverence. I was eager to accompany Dad to meet this legendary scholar to learn more about Taoist alchemy. However this dream was unfulfilled as I left my passport back at the hotel when the train was about to depart, so Dad made the trip alone. I asked Dad to give Needham the metaphysical poems of a youthful James Clerk Maxwell who wrote about the expanding universe seven decades ahead of Edwin Hubble.
Dad with Column Vendôme in the background
Dad drinking coffee at Café de la Paix near the Opera House Dad loved art, and we visited the Louvre, Musée du Jeu de Paume (Renoir & Monet), Centre Georges Pompidou (modern art), Musée Cluny (Unicorn Tapestries), Musée Guimet (Oriental art), Musée Rodin and Notre Dame de Paris. One day, Dad led me to Musée de l'Homme and ran through the corridors mumbling aloud, “Broca's Brain, Broca's Brain— Where is Broca's Brain?” Apparently Dad had just read Carl Sagan's book by that name published that year. Three days before Dad died, he flipped through my mini-photo album of Paris, and pointed to the photo to the left, saying “15 francs”— my coffee treat to him 21 years ago, and he remembered at age 98.

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (1-11-2001)