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Lazare Carnot

  Lazare Nicolas Marguerite, Comte Carnot (May 13, 1753—August 2, 1823), the Organizer of Victory in the French Revolutionary Wars was a French politician, engineer, and mathematician.

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Education and early life

Born in Nolay, Carnot was educated in Burgundy and obtained a commission in the engineer corps of the Prince de Condé. Although in the army, he continued his mathematical studies in which he felt great interest. His first work, published in 1784, was on machines; it contains a statement which foreshadows the principle of energy as applied to a falling weight, and the earliest proof of the fact that kinetic energy is lost in the collision of imperfectly elastic bodies.

Political career

On the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Carnot entered political life. He became a delegate to the Legislative Assembly in 1791, to the National Convention in 1792 (where he voted for the death of King Louis XVI), and in 1793 he was elected to the Committee of Public Safety.

The creation and victories of the French Revolutionary Army were largely due to his powers of organization and enforcing discipline, with successes both in the actual theatre of operations and in obtaining fresh recruits by conscription: the levée en masse. It added significantly to discontent with the course of the Revolution in still Bourbon-loyalist areas — such as the Vendée, which had broken out in open revolt 5 months earlier — but the government of the time considered it a success, and Carnot became known as the Organizer of Victory. In autumn 1793, he took charge of French columns on the Northern Front, and contributed to Jean-Baptiste Jourdan's victory in the Battle of Wattignies.

He had taken no steps to oppose the Reign of Terror, but he, along with other technocrats on the committee like Robert Lindet and Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau, turned on Maximilien Robespierre and his allies during the Thermidorian Reaction.

With the establishment of the Directory in 1795, Carnot became one of the initial directors. His and Étienne-François Letourneur's moderation was viewed as weakness, and it probably contributed to France's failure to capitalize[citation needed] on the Treaty of Campo Formio. After Letourneur had been replaced by another close collaborator of Carnot, François de Barthélemy, both of them, alongside many deputies in the Council of Five Hundred, were ousted in the Fructidor coup d'état of (September 4, 1797), engineered by Generals Napoleon Bonaparte (originally, Carnot's protégé) and Pierre François Charles Augereau. He took refuge in Geneva, and there in 1797 issued his La métaphysique du calcul infinitésimal.

In 1800 he was appointed Minister of War by Bonaparte, and served in that office at the time of the Battle of Marengo. In 1802, he voted against the establishment of Napoleon's Consular powers for life.


However, his republican convictions were inconsistent with high office under the First French Empire, and he resigned from public life - although he was later made a Count of the Empire by Napoleon as Lazare Nicolas Marguerite, comte Carnot.

In 1803 he produced his Géométrie de position. This work deals with projective rather than descriptive geometry, it also contains an elaborate discussion of the geometrical meaning of negative roots of an algebraic equation. Carnot returned to office in defense of Napoleon during the disastrous invasion of Russia; he was assigned the defence of Antwerp against the Sixth Coalition - he only surrendered on the demand of the Count of Artois, who was the younger brother of Louis XVIII and later Charles X.

During the Hundred Days, he served as Minister of the Interior for Napoleon, and was exiled as a regicide during the White Terror after the Second Restoration during the reign of Louis XVIII. He lived in Warsaw, and moved to Prussia, where he died in the city of Magdeburg. Carnot's remains were interred at the Panthéon in 1889, at the same time as those of Marie Victor de La Tour-Maubourg, Jean-Baptiste Baudin, and François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers.

Famous offspring

  • His son Sadi Carnot was a founder of the field of thermodynamics and the theory of heat engines (see Carnot cycle).
  • His second son Lazare Hippolyte Carnot was a French statesman.
  • His grandson Marie François Sadi Carnot (son of Hippolyte) was President of the French Republic from 1887 until his assassination in 1894 .

See also

  • Carnot's theorem


    • W. W. Rouse Ball, A Short Account of the History of Mathematics (4th Edition, 1908)
    This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Lazare_Carnot". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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