Biographical Sketch of Lazare Carnot

  • Charles Coulston Gillispie
  • Raffaele Pisano
Part of the History of Mechanism and Machine Science book series (HMMS, volume 19)


Known to French history as the “Organizer of Victory” in the wars of the Revolution, and to engineering mechanics for the principle of continuity in the transmission of power, Lazare–Nicolas–Marguerite Carnot (1753–1823) remains one of the very few men of science and of politics whose career in each domain deserves serious attention on its own merits. His father, Claude , lawyer and notary, was among the considerable bourgeois of the small Burgundian town of Nolay, west of Beaune and thus on the opposite side of the ridge from the superb vineyards of the Côte–d’Or. Members of the family still own the ancestral home. Carnot’s most notable descendants have been his elder son Nicolas–Léonard Sadi (1796–1832), a principal founder of the science of thermodynamics, and the latter’s nephew, also called Sadi, President of the French Republic from 1887 until his assassination in 1894. A minor versifier himself, Lazare named his heir after a Persian poet whose work he admired in translation. His younger son, Hippolyte (1801–1888), wrote the first biography, a source of major importance for the personal details of his father’s life. Carnot had his early education in the Oratorian Collège (a school) at Autun. Thereafter his father enrolled him in a tutoring school in Paris, which specialized in preparing candidates for the entrance examinations to the service schools that trained cadets for the Navy, the Artillery, and the Royal Corps of Engineers . Strong in technique and low in prestige, the Corps of Engineers was the only branch of military service in which a commoner might hold a commission. On completing the normal course of 2 years, Carnot graduated from its school at Mézières at the age of 20 in 1773. Gaspard Monge teacher of mathematics and physics, was then at the height of his influence over the cadets.


Public Safety French Revolution Political Career French Republic French History 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Carnot L (1786) Essai sur les machines en général. Defay, DijonGoogle Scholar
  2. Carnot L (1797) Réflexions sur la métaphysique du calcul infinitésimal. Duprat, PariszbMATHGoogle Scholar
  3. Carnot L (1800a) Lettre du citoyen Carnot au citoyen Bossut, contenant quelques vues nouvelles sur la trigonométrie. In: Bossut, vol II, pp 401–421Google Scholar
  4. Carnot L (1801) De la corrélation des figures de géométrie. Duprat, ParisGoogle Scholar
  5. Carnot L (1803a) Principes fondamentaux de l’équilibre et du mouvement. Deterville, ParisGoogle Scholar
  6. Carnot L (1803b) Géométrie de position. Duprat, ParisGoogle Scholar
  7. Carnot L (1806a) Digression sur la nature des quantités dites négatives. In: Mémoire sur la Relation qui existe entre les distance respectives de cinq quelconques pris dans l’espace; suivi d’un essai sur la théorie des transversales. Courcier, Paris, pp 96–11Google Scholar
  8. Carnot H (1861–1863) Mémoires sur Carnot par son fils, 2 vols. Pagnerre, ParisGoogle Scholar
  9. Gillispie CC (1971) Lazare Carnot Savant. A monograph treating Carnot’s scientific work, with facsimile reproduction of his unpublished writings on mechanics and on the calculus, and an essay concerning the latter by Youschkevitch AP. Princeton University Press, PrincetonzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  10. Gillispie CC (1983) The Montgolfier brothers and the invention of aviation. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  11. Gillmor CS (1971) Coulomb and the evolution of physics and engineering in eighteenth–century France. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  12. Kuhn TS (1961) Sadi Carnot and the Cagnard engine. Isis 52(4):567–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Meusnier de la Place J–B–M–CH (1783) Mémoire sur l’équilibre des machines aérostatiques, sur les différents moyens de les faire monter et descendre, et spécialement sur celui d'exécuter ces manœuvres, sans jeter de lest, et sans perdre d'air inflammable, en ménageant dans le ballon une capacité particulière, destinée à renfermer de l’air atmosphérique, présenté à l’Académie, le 3 décembre 1783, avec une addition contenant une application de cette théorie au cas particulier du ballon que MM. Robert construisent à St–Cloud et dans lequel ce moyen doit être employé pour la première fois. Extrait du Journal de physique, Juliet: 1784Google Scholar
  14. Taton R (1964a) L’École Rouale du Génie de Mézières. In: Taton R (ed), pp 559–615Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Coulston Gillispie
    • 1
  • Raffaele Pisano
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of HistoryPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.SCité University of Lille 1LilleFrance

Personalised recommendations