19th century: thrust into the upheaval of the times

The history of École Polytechnique is closely tied to the periods of political, economic, and social upheaval of the 19th century.
19th century: thrust into the upheaval of the times

Early 19th century 

Admission to École Polytechnique was originally reserved exclusively for male students. This led the young mathematician Sophie Germain to disguise herself as a man at the beginning of the 19th century in order to attend courses at the School. She assumed the identity of one of its alumni, Antoine Auguste Le Blanc, and sent her remarks to Joseph-Louis Lagrange, who discovered the deception upon summoning her to discuss her brilliant responses. Lagrange became her friend and mentor.

1799-1804 : Under the French Consulate


The Development Council is established in December of 1799, which ensures that the École Polytechnique curriculum is consistent with the specialized Écoles d’application, where the students complete their applied studies after receiving their Ingénieur Polytechnicien degree.

1804-1814 : First French Empire


Napoleon Bonaparte grants École Polytechnique its military status and also gives the school its motto: “Pour la Patrie, les Sciences et la Gloire” (For the Nation, for Sciences, and for Glory). The school is relocated to the site of the former College of Navarre on Mount Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, providing enough space for the students to be housed on campus.


The students participate in the defense of Paris against Coalition troops, most notably in the confrontation of March 30, 1814.

1814-1815 : First Bourbon Restoration

The Duke of Angoulême visits the campus and becomes the protector of the school starting from September 1816.

1815 : The Hundred Days

Napoléon visits École Polytechnique.

1815-1830 : Second Bourbon Restoration

Gaspard Monge and Jean Henri Hassenfratz, professors of École Polytechnique since its origin, are relieved of their posts.

April 13,1816

The École Polytechnique students are dismissed, including Auguste Comte, a student in the class of X1814, by Louis XVIII.


École Polytechnique is reorganized by an order from Louis XVIII. The school loses its military status and is placed under the authority of the Minister of the Interior.

1830-1848 : July Monarchy

July 1830

École Polytechnique students, hostile towards Charles X, support the July Revolution. Roughly fifty of them reinforce the barricades and actively participate in the battles of the Trois Glorieuses on July 28, 29 and 30, 1830. A student named Louis Vaneau is killed during an attack on the barracks at Babylone.

13 novembre 1830

King Louis Philippe I reinstates the military. École Polytechnique is placed under the Ministry of War.

1848-1852 : Second Republic


The students of École Polytechnique act as intermediaries between the various parties and participate in the protection of the temporary government.


The school’s curriculum is reformed following discussions in the mixed Commission set up by Urbain le Verrier (X1831). The changes involve reducing theoretical studies to make way for more practical applications.

1852-1870 : Second Empire

With the advent of the Second Empire, several of the school’s internal traditions develop, such as the birth of the X epithet and the students’ personal code of conduct.


The first Point Gamma takes place, making it the oldest student gala in all of France.


The Société Amicale de Secours (SAS, or Friendly Aid Society) composed of École Polytechnique graduates is founded.

1870-1940 : Third Republic

1870-1871 : Government of National Defense

The students are mobilized. During the siege of Paris, the school is temporarily relocated to Bordeaux. It returns to Paris at the beginning of the insurrection of the Paris Commune.

Between 1871 and 1872

The number of students admitted per year increases from 140 to 280.