Napoleon Series Archive 2014

Ingenieurs-geographes militaires en France

Patrice Bret. Le Depot general de la Guerre et la formation scientique des ingenieurs-geographes militaires en France (1789-1830). 1989.

The Dépôt général de la Guerre, in charge of military mapping, experienced a period of change during the French Revolution. The new trends which then arose are explored here. Firstly, its director Calon failed in setting up an ambitions policy for geography, which challenged other civilian or military institutions. The courses he instituted to train surveyors (ingénieurs-géographes) collapsed. A time of slow reconstruction followed under Napoleonic rule, when the rational bases of modern cartography were laid as the ingénieurs-géographes were given a firm military status. In fact, a training school (Ecole d’application des ingénieurs-géographes) was created within the Ecole Polytechnique system, instead of the obsolete independent training courses. Henceforth, a high-level, coherent education was provided. Puissant, who was to teach mathematics there for twenty years, introduced analysis into the new school. His geodesic work was honoured by his succeeding Laplace at the Académie des Sciences, and by the success of the new 1: 80 000 map of France. Eventually, the awareness of the importance of geography, the establishment of modern scientific tools in cartography, and the professionalization of the ingénieurs-géographes mark the whole period. The Dépôt général de la Guerre had its own school and journal, like any other corps of the technical Establishment. Thus it was a true scientific institution between the Ecole Polytechnique and the Bureau des Longitudes, and the scientific community recognized it as such.