École Polytechnique

Pediment at Ecole Polytechnique

Starting in 1792, threatened by the surrounding monarchies, revolutionary France went to war. But it needed engineers to win it. In 1794, the Ecole central des travaux publics was founded. The following year, it took on the name “Ecole polytechnique.” With the Conservatoire des arts et métiers and the central engineering schools, created at the same time, this institution attempted to demonstrate that the Republican regime had perfected civilization. First located in the Bourbon Palace, in 1804 Polytechnique moved to the neighborhood of Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, into the former Collège de Navarre. Napoleon would then later endow it with its military status. In 1976, the school left the center of Paris for Palaiseau (Essonne department).

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Scholars and professors

Above the door, the pediment reminds everyone who enters of the school’s missions: the development of the sciences (left bas-relief) and military training (right bas-relief). Up top, five medallions celebrate the memory of the professors, who were also major scholars, like Legrand, Laplace, Monge, Berthollet and Fourcroy. In the center, the allegory of the Republic is a reminder that scientific research and education must help build a new Republican society. Its missions were thus not neutral in nature.

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