In a few places, such as this web page, I have read the following statement about Jean Dieudonné, who was a founding member of the French "secret society" of mathematicians, Nicolas Bourbaki:

Dieudonné stated the view that most workers in mathematics were doing ground-clearing work, in order that a future Riemann could find the way ahead intuitively open.

I have two questions:

  1. Is there a reliably-sourced quote that can be directly attributed to Dieudonné where he expresses this sentiment? I have been unable to find such a quote. If such a quote exists, it might be in French.
  2. What did Dieudonné mean by this? That is, what did he expect that a future mathematician would do that was reminiscent of Riemann's work? If a direct quote is found as in the last question, its surrounding context might shed light on this matter.
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    $\begingroup$ The linked page is a reproduction of pages from the book Notable Algebraic Topologists and Their Theorems. The quoted passage is on p.61, without any citation, other places simply reproduce it verbatim. Riemann is just a stand-in for "intuitive genius", the idea is that most mathematicians do technical work so that such a genius can see deeper without being obstructed by technicalities. It might as well have been future Galois or Grothendieck. $\endgroup$ – Conifold Jun 29 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Conifold Thanks. Unfortunately, the author has passed away, so there is no hope of asking from where he gained this impression. $\endgroup$ – Favst Jun 29 at 16:29
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    $\begingroup$ If you are interested in Dieudonné's view of mathematicians' work generally then chapter 1 of his book Mathematics — The Music of Reason gives a good idea. It seems to be much more nuanced than the OP quote would suggest. $\endgroup$ – Conifold Jun 29 at 22:24

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