In the name of the organizing committee to Zürich today. As you know, this is the third time that the International Congress of Mathematicians takes place in this city. In the year 1897, at the very first of these meetings, the plenary speakers were Hurwitz, Felix Klein, Peano and Poincaré, four outstanding scientists, whose names and achievements are still familiar to us, even after one hundred years of tremendous change in science and society.
This lasting quality of mathematical ideas is certainly one of the most fascinating aspects of our science. Another aspect, which is at least as important, is the universality of mathematical activity, a feature that Hermann Weyl emphasized in a speech in 1932, when the Congress came to Zürich for the second time. On that occasion, at the beginning of the darkest period of our century, the world's scientific community was called upon to develop a new sense of solidarity, arising from a joint search for truth.
Six decades later, we face a completely different world balanced (precariously) between order and chaos. When we began our preparatios for this event, in the summer of 1989, the borders in Europe seemed to be topologically and even metrically invariant, so that we didn't include them in the list of problems that we might have to cope with. Since then, we have witnessed the birth of many new countries and of many new mathematical societies. We are very glad to note that most of them have found their way to Zürich. We are especially pleased to be able to welcome tha representatives of the Bosnian Mathematical Society, and to thank the authorities and the people who helped to organize their journey out of Sarajevo.
As well as the political instability of the last few years, we have also seen serious world economic problems, from which Switzerland has not been completely excluded, and it was by no means evident that we would find the financial support we needed for the Congress. We are therefore deeply grateful to all of those who have helped us, and with unexpected generosity. I would like especially to mention the federal authorities, the ETH's of Zürich and Lausanne, the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Cantonal Government of Zürich and its University Department, the City of Zürich, many private companies in insurance, banking, chemicals, commerce and industry and, last but not least, the International Science Foundation in Washington. I wish to thank my colleagues in the Finance Committee who not only helped us to raise funds, but who also suggested many ways to make this event more attractive.
We have tried to use the money we received with the greatest possible efficiency, but we have been forced to the conclusion that optimization problems in real life are very different from what they are in theory! We hope nonetheless that the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones, and that you will enjoy the former and forgive us the latter.
Let me end with two pleasant remarks about the Congress of 1932: The first one is that we have among us Prof. J. J. Burckhardt, who was active in the organization 62 years ago. By extrapolation, we may assume that some of today's participants will be able to attend the fourth congress in Zürich in the middle of the next century. The second remark relates to a comment that I found in a historical survey on the International Mathematical Congresses concerning that meeting of 1932: "In a country which at that time didn't allow women to vote, it was distinguished by the inclusion of a woman mathematician - Emmy Noether... But the number of women who have been invited to speak at the international congresses since Noether does not differ much from 0! I am therefore happy to observe, not only that the number of plenary lectures by women will be this time greater than 0, and even greater than 1, but also that the highest federal and cantonal authorities are both represented here by women. This shows that we can always hope for positive changes!
And now I request your help in the election by acclamation of the Honorary President of the Congress. I propose to you fhe former secretary of the IMU and founder of the Mathematical Research Institute at the ETH, Prof. Beno Eckmann.