Jean-Victor Poncelet

Jean-Victor Poncelet (July 1, 1788 – December 22, 1867) was a French mathematician, specifically a geometer, and mechanic. He is best known for his revival of projective geometry, though he has many other contributions in the field of geometry. As a mechanic and physicist, he improved the design of the waterwheel in his home town of Metz.


Poncelet was born on July 1, 1788, the illegitimate son of Claude de Poncelet, a lawyer in the local Parliament, and a well-to-do landowner. Poncelet attended local schools in his home town before going to the prestigious French academy called the Ecole Polytechnique in 1808, and then in 1810 at a local university before graduating.

After graduation in 1810, he served in the army as a military engineer for a short while. He was captured during a battle against the Russians, and was held captive a few years. During this time, he wrote his most famous work, Traité des propriétés projectives des figures, which played a large role in the revival of projective geometry that Poncelet is famous for.

After being released by the Russians, Poncelet became a professor of mechanics at the local university he had attended. He worked on waterwheel design during his tenure at the university. Poncelet switched positions to become the commandant of the Ecole Polytechnique in 1848, during which he wrote an introduction to his earlier work on projective geometry. He retired in 1850, and died on December 22, 1867.


  • Didion 1870. Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages du général J. V. Poncelet

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