Jean-Victor Poncelet

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Jean-Victor Poncelet

Jean-Victor Poncelet (July 1, 1788December 22, 1867) was a mathematician and engineer who did much to revive projective geometry.

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Life

Born to a poor family in Metz, France, Poncelet won a scholarship to the lycée' and then the École Polytechnique where he studied under Gaspard Monge. In 1810 he entered the military engineering college at Metz. He was commissioned a lieutenant of engineers and served in Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. Abandoned as dead at the Battle of Krasnoy, he was imprisoned by the Russians at Saratov before being repatriated to France in 1814.

During his imprisonment, he studied projective geometry and started to investigate those properties that figures share with their shadows, drafting the book Applications d'analyse et de géométrie that was to be published in two volumes in 1862/1864. He studied conic sections and developed the principle of duality independently of Joseph Gergonne.

On his repatriation to France, he resumed military engineering duties at Metz, being appointed professor of mechanics at the école d'application in 1825. There, in his lectures, he coined the term fatigue to describe the failure of materials under repeated stress. He took a particular interest in the design of turbines and waterwheels, proposing the inward-flow turbine in 1826, though the first model was not built until 1838. In his book "Industrial Mechanics" [1829] he proved the work-kinetic energy theorem and demonstrated its wide applicability. Gaspard de Coriolis was simultaneously developing the same ideas, but this work makes Poncelet the most influential engineer in history.

Poncelet left Metz in 1835 and became professor of mechanics at the Sorbonne in 1838. From 1848, he held the rank of general, commanding the École Polytechnique. Poncelet retired from his administrative duties in 1850 to devote himself to mathematical research. He died in Paris.

Bibliography

Works

  • - (1822) Traité des propriétés projectives des figures
  • - (1826) Cours de mécanique appliqué aux machines
  • - (1829) Introduction a la mécanique industrielle
  • - (1862/64) Applications d'analyse et de géométrie

Biography

  • Bertrand, J, (1879) Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences vol. 41

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