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On the Wikipedia page about Laurent Schwartz, one can find the following quote:

What are mathematics helpful for ? Mathematics are helpful for physics. Physics helps us make fridges. Fridges are made to contain spiny lobsters, and spiny lobsters help mathematicians who eat them and have hence better abilities to do mathematics, which are helpful for physics, which helps us make fridges which...

The source of the quote refers to a French webpage that is now dead (I tried to use the Internet Archive with no success). Do you know a reference (the original reference might be in French) for this quote? A book, a conference, a paper, another webpage...

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Here it is in the original language

« pourquoi faire des mathématiques ? ». La première médaille Fields française affirmait alors : « Parce que les mathématiques, ça sert à faire de la physique. La physique, ça sert à faire des frigidaires. Les frigidaires, ça sert à y mettre des langoustes, et les langoustes, ça sert aux mathématiciens, qui les mangent et sont alors dans de bonnes dispositions pour faire des mathématiques, qui servent à la physique, qui sert à faire des frigidaires, qui… ».

That doesn't seem to provide a reference either.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. There is plenty of reference in French. I should have mentioned that the reference for this quote might be in French. $\endgroup$ – user37238 Mar 11 '16 at 16:38
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This is a paraphrase of a common joke (in Germany, England and France).

"Eat more fish. It is useful for your brain. Use your brain to make more money. Which will enable you to buy more fish".

I suppose that it is of ancient Roman origin, as many common jokes, but cannot prove this.

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Citations in Wikipedia and in Schwartz's obituary (from which the quote is copied to many other places) refer to now defunct French site of Michel-Amadry, archived here. There the French quote is accompanied by "citation est extraite du livre "Le facteur temps ne sonne..." (quote is taken from the book "Time never rings...), which appears to be Le Facteur Temps ne Sonne Jamais Deux Fois (Time Never Rings Twice) by Étienne Klein. The English translation seems to be named Chronos: How Time Shapes Our Universe, so you may want to look there.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. I've just looked in the French edition of the book. One can find the citation without any source. $\endgroup$ – user37238 Mar 12 '16 at 12:22

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