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Théodore Olivier (1793–1853) was a French mathematician.

Théodore Olivier
Theodore Olivier.jpg
Born(1793-01-14)January 14, 1793
DiedAugust 5, 1853(1853-08-05) (aged 60)
Resting placeMontparnasse Cemetery
48°50′17″N 2°19′37″E / 48.83806°N 2.32694°E / 48.83806; 2.32694
Alma materÉcole Polytechnique
Scientific career
InstitutionsEcole centrale des arts et manufactures
InfluencesGaspard Monge

Life and workEdit

Olivier studied in the Licée Imperial of Lyon where he obtained in 1811 a degree in mathematics with high honours. After this, he went to the École Polytechnique.[1] Olivier looked like Napoleon, but nobody could prove that Olivier was an illegitimate son of the Emperor.[2]

In 1815, he was an adjunct professor in the Artillery School at Metz and, in 1819, he became a full professor. In 1821, at the request of the King of Sweden, Charles XIV John (Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte), he went to Sweden to organize the military school of Mariemberg.[3]

Returning to France, Oliver criticized the pedagogical system in the École Polytechnique and in 1829, jointly with Alphonse Lavallée, Jean-Baptiste Dumas and Jean Claude Eugène Péclet, founded the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, where he was professor of geometry and mechanics for the rest of his life.[4] He also was, between 1830 and 1844, a professor at the École Polytechnique and, from 1838, a professor at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers.[5]

Example of an Olivier's geometrical model conserved in the Canadian Science Museum

Olivier is mainly known for the construction of three-dimensional models of geometry for pedagogical purposes.[4] Most of them were sold to North American institutions such as Union College, the University of Columbia and West Point, where they are preserved.[6]

Olivier also studied the theory of gears, writing an extensive treatise on the subject, and constructing models, preserved in the Musée des Art et Offices in Paris.[7]

Olivier had no children, but he was the uncle of the French explorer Aimé Olivier de Sanderval.


  1. ^ Nesme, page 4.
  2. ^ Hervé, page 294.
  3. ^ Nesme, pages 5–6.
  4. ^ a b Nesme, page 7.
  5. ^ Hervé, page 296.
  6. ^ Hervé, page 298.
  7. ^ Hervé, pages 305 and follow.


  • Hervé, J.M. (2007). "Théodore Olivier (1793–1853)". In Marco Ceccarelli (ed.). Distinguished Figures in Mechanism and Machine Science. Springer. pp. 294–319. ISBN 978-1-4020-6365-7.
  • Jacomy, Bruno (1995). "Du cabinet au Conservatoire. Les instruments scientifiques du Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers à Paris". Journal of the History of Collections (in French). 7 (2): 227–233. doi:10.1093/jhc/7.2.227. ISSN 0954-6650.
  • Nesme, Auguste (1858). Notice sur Théodore Olivier (in French). Aimé Vingtrinier.

External linksEdit