Geeks from History: Napoleon

By Sterling “Chip” Camden
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

While manipulating the French Revolution for his own ends and conquering Europe in his spare time, Napoleon Bonaparte was first and foremost a geek at heart. He was passionate about science and math.

Napoleon remembered his early school days like many of us: “every one said of me: that boy is no good except at geometry. I was not very popular. I was dry as parchment.” Translation: math nerd.

In his early twenties, Napoleon would develop a love of astronomy that would last for the rest of his life. Even after becoming Emperor, he remained an active member of the prestigious Institut de France, First Class (science). He promoted and rewarded advances in the sciences during his reign — including an annual prize for new work in the emerging field of electricity.

Early in his miltary career (campaigning in Italy in 1796) Napoleon wrote:

Whenever I am able to render a service to science, I gratify my own feelings and am sure I am acquiring honour. Among all sciences astronomy is the one which has rendered the greatest services to reason and to commerce. To share the night between a beautiful woman and a lovely sky; to spend the day checking observation by calculation, — that is happiness on earth.

And that’s one world-conqueror who knew that geeks are sexy!

Quotations taken from The Corsican: A Diary of Napoleon’s Life in His Own Words, translated and edited by R.M. Johnston.


3 Responses to Geeks from History: Napoleon

  1. Back then, you couldn't run an artillery brigade without math, and that's what Napoleon was doing before he became Emperor.