If you seek evil among men you will find it; if you seek the good, you will find it too

Creating a Foundation means wanting to serve a cause of general interest by devoting to it a financial heritage, but also part of its time, its experience, its network. It means wanting to give greater resonance to one or more life issues that challenge us and are important to us and to commit to promoting them by supporting certain projects that seem significant to us.

Our Jean-François and Marie-Laure de Clermont Tonnerre Foundation, created in 2009, was inspired by the initiative in the 1960s of a handful of men aware of the urgent need not to dissociate Life from the evolution of Earth

Let’s put it in the context of the times: it’s 1960, atomism has gone down in history and has proven itself terribly, the arms race is on, politics are involved.

Biologists are moving and expressing their concerns about advances in Science which open up the possibilities of destruction by the diversion of chemical, biological, microbial weapons, etc.

Life and History, Man in the History of Life, Science – and in particular biology – in the History of Men are put into perspective and the capital notion of the responsibility of the human being is highlighted. Man towards himself and his descendants. It seems clearly established that the technical evolution of our scientific civilization in the absence of safeguards could call into question the fate of man. In other words, there is real awareness of the fact that science does not only bring well-being and protection to man: the transformations it induces and the immense powers that result from it make it a generator of dangers or even risk to life. An educational dialogue must be established between scientists and men. The biologist better than anyone knows the price and the fragility of life: it is therefore up to him to educate people and identify the threats to life and their conditions for development. It must help in the discernment of what must be safeguarded.

And it is at the call of these biologists, that a number of personalities responded to found in July 1962 the Institute of Life.

Its goal: to study the problems posed to man by the conservation and development of life, as well as the implementation of means which can help to solve them. Ambitious program!

Among the initiators of this project are an associate professor of biology, Maurice Marois, and… my grandfather, François de Clermont Tonnerre. Adventurer and lover of the land, passionate about agriculture – he will be a farmer in France in the Somme – he will lead a political career under the banner of the agrarian party and the French peasants and will distinguish himself during the 1939-45 war by actively engaging in the Resistance.

He later chaired the French Committee of the Foundation for Veterans of the World, founded in 1959, and this institution will provide support, alongside several personalities foreign to the early work of the Institute. The envisaged mission is noble and avant-garde: because of the universality of its object, the Institute therefore aims to be a kind of world organization bringing together men from all countries and all faiths to pool their knowledge. rules, principles, warnings for the benefit of the defense of life and its development.

It is true that this post-war generation undoubtedly knew better than us what “to survive” meant and what dimension to attach to the conjugation of this verb in order to integrate all its nobility.

More than half a century later, I salute the motivations of these responsible visionaries.

Today, for us citizens born “on the good side of the hemisphere”, it is possible to enrich ourselves with knowledge and culture: enthusiastic curiosity is an accelerator of life, and beyond “living” we have the magical power “to exist”. Art, culture and science constitute three important axes of this enrichment. Failing to create or invent ourselves, supporting and helping those who have inventive genius, the ability to create and move is a way of investing ourselves and continuing to believe in Man.

If you seek evil among men you will find it; if you seek the good, you will find it too – Abraham Lincoln