Carnot, Lazare Nicolas Marguerite [key], 1753–1823, French revolutionary, known as the organizer of victory for his role in the French Revolutionary Wars. A military engineer by training, Carnot became the military genius of the Revolution and was chiefly responsible for the success of the French in the wars. A member of the Legislative Assembly, the Convention, and the Committee of Public Safety, he made himself almost indispensable through his military knowledge. After the fall of Maximilien Robespierre, who was primarily responsible for the Reign of Terror, Carnot managed to avoid punishment for his own part in the Terror and became a member of the Directory. He was ousted from the Directory in the coup of 18 Fructidor (Sept., 1797) and fled abroad. He returned in 1799 and served as minister of war (1800) and in the tribunate under Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon I). In the next few years he wrote several works on mathematics and military engineering; in 1810 appeared his masterpiece, De la défense des places fortes, long considered the classic work on fortification. Carnot was the best-known advocate of the principle of active defense. In 1814 he returned to active service and conducted the defense of Antwerp. In the Hundred Days he served as minister of the interior. Exiled after the restoration of the monarchy, he died in Magdeburg, Prussia.
See biographies by H. Dupre (1940) and M. Reinhard (2 vol., 1950–52, in French).
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