Paul Painlevé was born in Paris, France, on 5th December, 1863. Educated at the University of Paris he received his doctorate in mathematics in 1887. He was awarded the Grand Prix des Sciences Mathematiques in 1890 and became professor of mathematics at the Sorbonne.
Painlevé joined the Radical Party and in 1906 was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. He was also interested in aviation and in 1909 created the first course in aeronautical mechanics at the Ecole Aéronautique.
In October 1915 Aristide Briand appointed Painleve as his minister of education. He was highly critical of the Nivelle Offensive and argued for Robert Nivelle to be replaced by Henri-Philippe Pétain.
Painlevé became prime minister in September 1917 and helped to establish the Supreme Allied Council in Versailles. However, he resigned in November 1917 and was replaced by Georges Clemenceau.
In 1924 Painlevé joined with other left of centre politicians to form the Cartel Des Gauches. After the new group defeated the right in the general election Painlevé became prime minister in April 1925. When his coalition government failed to agree on policies to solve the economic crisis, Painlevé resigned in November, 1925.
Painlevé served as war minister and air minister under both Aristide Briand and Raymond Poincare (1930-32). Paul Painlevé died in Paris on 29th October, 1933.