Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot

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Lazare Carnot
Signature Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot.PNG

Count Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot (born May 13, 1753 in Nolay , Burgundy , today Département Côte-d'Or , † August 2, 1823 in Magdeburg ) was a French officer , mathematician and politician .


Carnot was born into a middle-class family. He had 17 siblings, one of whom was promoted to Procureur général at the royal court. Carnot first attended the Collège d'Autun and the École de Mézières , where he became familiar with the work of the mathematicians Jean Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert (1717–1783) and Charles Bossut (1730–1814). He then joined the engineer corps of the French army in 1773 , which was the only formation in which proof of nobility was not a prerequisite for a modest officer career at the time . By 1783 he had achieved the rank of capitaine au corps royal du génie . In his garrison in Calais , however, he occupied himself extensively with the scientific theory of fortification and physics . Early on he wrote an essay on the early forms of airships ( Leproblemème de la direction des aérostats ) and sent it to the Académie des sciences , of which he became a member in 1796. Shortly thereafter, in 1784, his book Éloge de M. le Maréchal de Vauban was published , which decades later was considered the standard textbook for fortress construction.

At the outbreak of the French Revolution (1789), Carnot became enthusiastic about the new ideas and began to get involved in politics. In the National Convention that met on September 21, 1792 , he voted on January 15, 1793 for the execution of the king and was regularly sent to the armies. As a member of the Montagne (mountain party) he was a member of the welfare committee since August 4, 1793 . Here he was responsible for military affairs and contributed to the victory at Wattignies . The introduction of the levée en masse , which he introduced, proved to be momentous . He was a member of the Pas-de-Calais Department in the National Assembly and was a member of the Military Committee. On the 9th Thermidor II of the republican calendar (July 27, 1794) he contributed to the overthrow of Maximilien Robespierre . On 26 September 1795 Carnot was by the deputies of the departments of Sarthe for Elders of the Parliament elected the Board's constitution and joined the Board one, had its place, however, after the coup of 18 fructidor evacuate. He fled to Switzerland . After the coup d'état of 18th Brumaire VIII , he returned to France and was appointed Minister of War by Napoléon Bonaparte . After a few months he resigned. Carnot had a seat in the tribunate , voted against the consulate for life and the Empire, and eventually withdrew from political life to devote himself to his scientific work. During the reign of the Hundred Days of Napoleon I in 1815, he was appointed Minister of the Interior. Finally, during the Restoration , he was accused of regicide and had to flee to Prussia , where he lived temporarily in Wernigerode and died in Magdeburg in 1823 . Since 1808 he was a foreign member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences . In 1889 his bones were transferred to Paris and buried in the Pantheon .

His son Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot became known as a physicist , among other things for the foundation of thermodynamics . His grandson Marie François Sadi Carnot became President of the Republic of France in 1887.


Carnot was not only a politician and inventor of the principle of levée en masse , but also an important mathematician. His writings became fundamental to the geometry of the location . At the beginning of the 20th century it was still common to refer to the cosine law of trigonometry as Carnot's law of cosines . There is also a theorem by Carnot , which also deals with plane triangles.


His name is entered on the triumphal arch in Paris in the 4th column. Carnot is immortalized by name on the Eiffel Tower (see The 72 names on the Eiffel Tower ). In his honor, one of the twelve streets that open onto Place Charles-de-Gaulle has been named Avenue Carnot since 1880 .

A type of wall in fortress construction bears the name Carnot Wall after him .


Réflexions sur la métaphysique du calcul infinitésimal , 1797
  • De la corrélation des figures de geometry (1801)
  • Geometry de position (1803)
  • Traité de la defense des places fortes (1812)
    • Discours préliminaire . 3. édition digitized
  • Mémoire adressé au roi en juillet 1814 par Carnot suivi du discours qu'il a prononcé au tribunat le 11 floréal an 12 (Arnaud, Paris 1815)

See also


  • Daniel Amson: Carnot. Perrin Verlag, Paris 1992, ISBN 2-262-00907-4 .
  • Pierre Beaudry: Lazare Carnot: Organizer of Victory - How the "Calculus of Enthusiasm" Saved France. In: The American Almanac. July 21, 1997, online .
  • Charles Gillispie : Lazare Carnot Savant - a monograph treating Carnot's scientific work , with facsimile reproduction of his unpublished writings on mechanics and on the calculus, Princeton University Press 1971 (with an essay by Adolf Juschkewitsch )
  • Charles Gillispie, Raffaele Pisano: Lazare and Sadi Carnot. A scientific and filial relationship , Springer, 2nd edition 2014
  • Emmanuel Grison: Lazare Carnot et le Grand Comité de Salut Public. In: Sabix - Bulletin de la Societé des Amis de la Bibliothèque 'de l'École polytechnique. No. 23, 2000, ISSN  0989-3059 , pp. 15-21, online .
  • Dino De Paoli: Lazare Carnot's Grand Strategy for Political Victory . In: Executive Intelligence Review. September 20, 1996, online .
  • Marcel Reinhard: Le Grand Carnot. Lazare Carnot, 1753-1792. Hachette, Paris 1994, ISBN 2-01-235066-6 .
  • David Eugene Smith : Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot. In: Scientific Monthly , Vol. 37, No. 2, 1933, pp. 188 f., ISSN  0096-3771
  • Alain Juhel In Lazare Carnot's Footsteps . In: Mathematical Intelligencer , 2010, No. 2 (Mathematical Tourist)
  • Carl B. Boyer : The great Carnot . In: The Mathematics Teacher , Volume 49, No. 1, January 1956, pp. 7-14 ( JSTOR 27955059 )
  • Karl-Eugen Kurrer : The History of the Theory of Structures. Searching for Equilibrium . Ernst & Sohn , Berlin 2018, pp. 40f., 297, 438f. u. 442, ISBN 978-3-433-03229-9 .

Web links

Commons : Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b David Eugene Smith: Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot . In: The Scientific Monthly , Vol. 37, No. 2, 1933, pp. 188 f.
  2. ^ List of members since 1666: Letter C. Académie des sciences, accessed on October 25, 2019 (French).
  3. Member entry of Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Graf von Carnot at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , accessed on January 12, 2017.
predecessor Office successor
François Xavier de Montesquiou-Fézensac Interior Minister of France
March 20, 1815 - June 22, 1815
Claude Carnot-Feulin
Louis-Alexandre Berthier Minister of War of France
April 2, 1800 - October 8, 1800
Louis-Alexandre Berthier

Robert Lindet
President of the French National Convention
May 5, 1794 - May 20, 1794

Claude-Antoine Prieur