Séminaire de Probabilités: History
The Séminaire de Probabilités was born in 1966, at a meeting (initiated by Pierre Gabriel) between Klaus Peters, then responsible for Mathematics at the publisher Springer Verlag, and P.A. Meyer. Owing to Doob’s book, probability had recently acquired a respectable status in mathematics, and French probabilists were few and sparse. The idea arising from this meeting was a mathematical publication that would leave much room for expository articles and stimulate beginners by fast publishing their first works, but whose quality would be secured by publishing important results, as some senior probabilists would reserve their best works for it. The Séminaire would publish the works by invited speakers at Strasbourg, but it was clear from the beginning that most "exposés" would never take place as oral lectures.
At that time, typical subjects in the Séminaire were Markov processes and their applications to potential theory; martingale theory and its applications to Analysis; the general theory of processes and its tools from descriptive set theory. To a smaller extent, Gaussian processes, the other active field in Strasbourg. Later, the range of topics widely broadened out: stochastic integral, stochastic differential geometry and Malliavin calculus, large deviations, non-commutative probability. In the 90’s, the stupendous expansion of the probabilistic field has prompted the Séminaire to return to its first subjects, except Markov processes that became less important.
During several years, the Séminaire effectively followed these principles, publishing the articles of young french probabilists, then of their friends, and of their friends’ friends, crossing boundaries mainly towards Great Britain, and towards Germany or Italy too, and even the USA. It worked more by personal relations—an article on some subject was "ordered" to someone—than by critically re-reading articles. However, from volume XIV on (1980), the increasing number of probabilists and the local conditions led to transferring the editorship to Paris, between the hands of J. Azéma and M. Yor. A little later, as the volume size steadily grew (volume XVI, of almost 800 pages had to be split in two), a real editorial board was set up. Nowadays, all articles are reported on by an anonymous referee, as for an ordinary journal.
On the publisher’s side, the successive heads for mathematics kept in good terms with us, and the Séminaire has survived for more than thirty years. On the other hand, Springer Verlag’s insistence for a unified presentation, with typographical quality ensured by TeX, has narrowed the gap between the Séminaire and an ordinary mathematical journal, and most expository articles and beginners’ works are no longer there. This may be a loss: see for instance S.M. Berman’s very favourable account of Michel Weber’s first work published in volume XI (Math. Reviews 56#13343).
(This text has been written by P.-A. Meyer and M. Émery)