How to build SciPy with Meson#


The change over from a numpy.distutils to a Meson based build happened recently, so there may still be rough edges. All platforms are supported, however niche configurations may not yet be tested. These instructions should work reliably on Linux and macOS with a conda environment and OpenBLAS as the BLAS/LAPACK library. Building SciPy on Windows has always been a little tricky - it does work provided that all build dependencies are installed (most importantly, OpenBLAS and a compatible set of compilers: either Mingw-w64 or MSVC + Intel Fortran works). If you have issues on Windows, please look at this CI job for details.

Quickstart from scratch#

Clone the repo if you haven’t done so yet, and initialize the git submodules:

git clone
git submodule update --init

Create a conda development environment, build SciPy with Meson and run the test suite:

conda env create -f environment.yml
conda activate scipy-dev
python test

Full details and explanation#

To build SciPy, let’s start with a clean repo:

git clone
git submodule update --init

We will use conda here, because it’s the easiest way to get a fully reproducible environment. If you do not have a conda environment yet, the recommended installer is Mambaforge (mamba is basically a much faster conda).

To create a development environment:

conda env create -f environment.yml  # `mamba` works too for this command
conda activate scipy-dev

Support for Cython in Meson is very new, and we also need some recent bug fixes and new features in Meson - hence we need a >=0.60.x release (automatically installed via use of environment.yml above).

Meson uses a configure and a build stage. To configure it for putting the build artifacts in build/ and a local install under build-install/ and then build:

meson setup build --prefix=$PWD/build-install
ninja -C build

In the command above, -C is followed by the name of the build directory. You can have multiple builds at the same time. Meson is fully out-of-place, so those builds will not interfere with each other. You can for example have a GCC build, a Clang build and a debug build in different directories.

To then install SciPy into the prefix (build-install/ here, but note that that’s just an arbitrary name we picked here):

meson install -C build

It will then install to build-install/lib/python3.9/site-packages/scipy, which is not on your Python path, so to add it do (note, having to use ``PYTHONPATH`` is temporary, this will be changed once we merge support for building wheels):

export PYTHONPATH=$PWD/build-install/lib/python3.9/site-packages/

Now we should be able to import scipy and run the tests. Remembering that we need to move out of the root of the repo to ensure we pick up the package and not the local scipy/ source directory:

cd doc
python -c "from scipy import constants as s; s.test()"

The above runs the tests for a single module, constants. Other ways of running the tests should also work, for example:

pytest --pyargs scipy

The full test suite should pass, without any build warnings on Linux (with GCC 9 at least) and a moderate amount on the other platforms.

The interface#

The above configure-build-install-test docs are useful to understand how the Meson build works, and for working on build improvements. If you want the “all-in-one” command for all of the above, run:

python test

This interface has many options, allowing you to perform all regular development-related tasks (building, running tests, building docs, running benchmarks, etc.). Here we document a few of the most commonly used options; run python --help or --help on each of the subcommands for more details.

Use the following command to build and install SciPy:

python build

To run the tests use:

python test

To run the tests for a particular submodule(let’s say optimize), you can use:

python test -s optimize

To learn more about Meson#

It’s worth pointing out that Meson has very good documentation; it pays off to read it, and is often the best source of answers for “how to do X”. Furthermore, an extensive pdf book on Meson can be obtained for free at

To learn more about the design principles Meson uses, the recent talks linked from are also a good resource.

For running the Linux Meson CI job locally, one can use the act tool, see act for running GitHub Actions locally.

Meson frequently asked questions#

Q: What are the changes in dependencies when switching to Meson?

There are a couple of new dependencies:

  • meson: the Meson build system, installable as a pure Python package from PyPI or conda-forge

  • ninja: the build tool invoked by Meson to do the actual building (e.g. invoking compilers). Installable also from PyPI (on all common platforms) or conda-forge.

  • pkg-config: the tool used for discovering dependencies (in particular BLAS/LAPACK). Available on conda-forge (and Homebrew, Chocolatey, and Linux package managers), but not packaged on PyPI.

In case your pkg-config is not on the PATH and you don’t want to add it, you can set an environment variable to let Meson find it. For example for Homebrew: export PKG_CONFIG_PATH="/opt/homebrew/opt/openblas/lib/pkgconfig".

Note that we are also losing dependencies, namely numpy.distutils and setuptools. Overall we are (a) switching build systems, and (b) adding pkg-config for more reliable dependency discovery than the hardcoded paths that numpy.distutils used.

Q: I currently use in-place builds, how is my workflow changing?

Meson by design does not support in-place builds. This has advantages (e.g., one can use multiple parallel builds, caching becomes easier, etc.) - however it does mean that one current workflow is no longer supported.

The recommended workflow is to use python This works exactly the same way as python worked before. What it does is rebuild if needed, and then install SciPy to a private directory (default is build-install/ in-tree) before running tests or other development tasks. This way modifications to pure Python code get picked up.

If you use an IDE with, e.g., a “Run” button for scripts which were pointing to an in-place build, and you would really like to continue using that same workflow instead of python, then you have a few options:

  • After modifying pure Python code in the SciPy repo, install it on the command line with python build, or with meson install -C build before running your script.

  • If your IDE supports it, customize what the “Run” button does before running the script, to do the install each time (this is expected to take 2-3 sec) For this to work, the install directory (build-install/lib/python3.X/site-packages inside the repo by default) should be added to PYTHONPATH. Note that the Spyder IDE does not yet support this; its developers are looking at implementing support before the SciPy 1.9.0 release).

Q: I’m seeing a warning “Broken python installation detected. …”

Please ignore these warnings, they are innocuous. They indicate that the install path is outside of a site-packages directory (which we prefer as the default for python

Upgrading Meson to 0.62.0 will make the warning go away.

Q: How do the current build/install commands change?

Old workflows (numpy.distutils based):

  1. python

  2. python build_ext -i + export PYTHONPATH=/home/username/path/to/scipy/reporoot (and then edit pure Python code in SciPy and run it with python

  3. python develop - this is similar to (2), except in-place build is made permanently visible in env.

  4. python bdist_wheel + pip install dist/scipy*.whl - build wheel in current env (i.e. uses installed numpy, etc.) and install it.

  5. pip install . - build wheel in an isolated build env against deps in pyproject.toml and install it. Note: be careful, this is usually not the correct command for development installs - typically you want to use (4) or pip install . -v --no-build-isolation.

New workflows (Meson based):

Note that currently (29 Dec 2021) only (1) is implemented. The rest is to be added/documented in follow-up PRs over the next few weeks to months.

  1. python

  2. no direct equivalent for in-place builds (but see FAQ entry on in-place builds)

  3. same as (2)

  4. python -m build --no-isolation + pip install dist/scipy*.whl - see pypa/build; it’s also possible Meson will gain the capability to build wheels directly, but python -m build is going to become the standard way of doing this.

  5. pip install . - this will work unchanged after switching the default in pyproject.toml to Meson.