He was known as the Organizer of Victory in the Bernard-Lazare PDF Revolutionary Wars. Born on May 13, 1753 in the village of Nolay, Côte-d’Or, Carnot was the son of local judge and royal notary, Claude Carnot and his wife, Marguerite Pothier. He was the second oldest of seven children.
It was here where he met and studied with Benjamin Franklin and at the age of twenty and obtained commission as a lieutenant in the Prince of Condé’s engineer corps. At the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Carnot entered political life. He became a delegate to the Legislature in 1791. While a member of the Legislative Assembly, Carnot was elected to the Committee for Public Instruction. After the Legislative Assembly was dissolved, Carnot was elected to the National Convention in 1792. He spent the last few months of 1792 on a mission to Bayonne, organizing the military defense effort in an attempt to ward off any possible attacks from Spain. On 14 August 1793 Carnot was elected to the Committee of Public Safety, where he took charge of the military situation as one of the Ministers of War.
With the establishment of the Directory in 1795, Carnot became one of the five initial directors. For the first year, the Directors did well working harmoniously together as well as with the Councils. Lazare Carnot, a feverishly productive member of the Committee of Public Safety during the Reign of Terror. His part in raising the levée en masse probably saved the French Revolutionary armies from defeat at the hands of their numerically superior opponents.
The creation of the French Revolutionary Army was largely due to his powers of organization and enforcing discipline. Once the problem of troop numbers had been solved, Carnot turned his administrative skills to the supplies that this massive army would need. He quickly organized the army and helped to turn the tide of the war. Carnot met Robespierre for the first time in Arras where he was assigned for military duty and shortly after Robespierre finished his legal studies. Both of them were members of the literary and singing « Societe des Rosati. The group was founded in 1778 and was inspired by the works of Chapelle, La Fontaine, and Chanlieu. It was here where they became acquaintances and eventually friends.
While being an active member of the Committee of Public Safety in 1794, tensions between Carnot and Robespierre began to rise massively. During his time on the committee, which was heavily radical, Carnot signed a total of 43 decrees and drafted 18 of them. Most of them regarding military tactics and education. Despite leaning on Jacobin beliefs, Carnot was considered the « conservative » of his half.
In 1795, Lazare appointed Napoleon Bonaparte as general in chief of the Army of Italy. He is known to be the only member of the Directory to have supported Napoleon during this time. In 1800 Bonaparte appointed Carnot as Minister of War, and he served in that office at the time of the Battle of Marengo. After Napoleon crowned himself emperor on 2 December 1804, Carnot’s republican convictions precluded his acceptance of high office under the First French Empire, and he resigned from public life. In 1803 Carnot produced his Géométrie de position. This work deals with projective rather than descriptive geometry.
Carnot equation of fluid dynamics and Carnot’s theorem in plane geometry are named after him. Published in 1810 under the title « Traité de la Défense des Places Fortes », his ideas on fortification were further developed in the third edition which was published in 1812. An English translation, « A Treatise on the Defence of Fortified Places » was published in 1814. He lived in Warsaw, and moved to Prussia, where he died in the city of Magdeburg. Carnot survived all the phases of the French Revolution, from its beginnings in 1789 until the fall of Napoleon in 1815. On the social and political front, Carnot was the author of many reforms sought to improve the country. One of these was the proposal for compulsory public education for all citizens.