The Evariste Galois Archive

'Tout voir, tout entendre,  ne perdre aucune idée', Evariste 
    Galois, 29/Oct/1831

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Evariste Galois Biography

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His Political Life

Galois must have been interested in politics when he was still attending the Louis-le-Grand, because Dupuy says in his biography, that besides the excellent education provided at the Polytechnique, Galois hoped to participate in the various political activities of this school. But his political activities started mainly at the Ecole Normale. He made friends Auguste Chevalier, a student from the second year. Auguste and his brother Michel, studying at the Ecole Polytechnique, had a great influence on Galois. The two brothers were ardent followers of Saint-Simonianism. Comte de Saint-Simon (1760 - 1825), alias Claude Henri de Ronvroy, linked early socialism with positivism in his philosophy. According to him society should be reorganized along industrial lines and the role of spiritual leaders should be taken by scientists. The students of the Ecole Normale were set on fire by the events of the July revolution. M. Guigniault, the director at the time, wanted to prevent his students from taking part in the dangerous happenings. He ordered them to stay inside the building and had all gates locked to enforce his will, most of the windows were barred anyway. He reminded his students of their pledge of service to the State, which made them civil servants. Galois wanted to take part under all circumstances and tried to escape by climbing over the outer walls. He failed, bruising his hands and knees. Charles X had to flee from France and Louis-Philippe took over the crown. Cauchy, the famous mathematician, followed Charles into exile. In the months after the July events, Galois must have joined the "Société des Amis du Peuple" (Society of Friends of the People). It was an organization founded that very year and its members were also the most active and aggressive ones of the republican party. They worked as a secret organization after a public start. They were regarded as very dangerous by most of the press, especially the government controlled press. Galois seems to have been in continuous conflict with Guignault. Galois irritated him with his proposals: He wanted to introduce uniforms, like the one at the Ecole Polytechnique, which were in military style. Evariste asked for the students to be armed, so they could have military training. Apparently, most of his fellow students were avoiding Galois and his radical ideas. Evariste Galois was expelled from school on the 9th of December - publicly announced on the 4th of January - because of an anonymous letter to the "Gazette des écoles". In this letter the director was blamed and offended for his behavior during the July revolution. Galois never admitted being the author of this letter neither to his fellow students nor to the director. Galois immediately enlisted in the Artillery of the National Guard, almost entirely consisting of republicans. On 15 December a trial before the Chamber of Peers began: four ex-ministers of Charles X were accused of treason. Lots of people in the street demanded the capital punishment. On the 21th of December, the day of the verdict, the situation was utterly tense. The artillerymen had planned to revolt, in case the ministers would be given life imprisonment instead of an execution. But although the verdict was not what the artillerymen and the National guard was hoping for, the expected revolt didn't occur. On the 31st of December 1830, Louis-Philippe dismissed General Lafyette and disbanded the National Guard. So it was, that in January 1831 Galois, no longer a student, and not a member of he National Guard anymore he tried to found a private algebra class to earn money for his living. His mother was not capable to support him financially. His course started as planned ont the 13th of January with about 40 students attending it, most probably mainly friends and not mathematicians. So it's no wonder that they couldn't follow his abstract lectures. Poisson asked Galois for a new copy of his memoire, so he wrote a new introduction and submitted his work on the 16th of January to the Academy. Because they refused to hand over their arms, nineteen officers had been arrested and charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government. As the so called "trial of the nineteen" caused a lot of attention in Paris, the government surely was afraid of an unpopular sentence, so the trial ended with an acquittal for the whole group. The members of the Société des Amis du Peuple organised a banquet in honour of the artillerymen, which was held on the 9th of May at the restaurant "Aux Vendanges de Bourgogne". As Alexandre Dumas, who was one of the guests - says in his memoirs: "It would be difficult to find in all Paris, two hundred persons more hostile to the government than those to be found reunited at five o'clock in the afternoon in the long hall on the ground floor above the garden." Naturally, Galois was one of them. Even though they had planned not to provoce the police with the toasts, many guests couldn't restrain from flamboyant republican speeches. But Galois "toast" immediately led to chaos and an untimely end of the event. He had raised a knife and said: "To Louis-Philippe!" When others followed his example, most people afraid of the police left the room in a hurry - some even through the open windows into the garden. The next day, the police arrested Galois at the apartment in Paris, where he lived with his mother. He was charged with incitement to an attempt on the life and person of the King of the French. Galois was imprisoned at Sainte-Pélagie. He wrote to his friend Auguste Chevalier: " ... I am under lock and key ! ! ! ... I was the one who made the gesture ... But don't blame me, because the fume of the wine had me lose my head ..." On the 15th of June 15 he was tried for threatening the King's life. His strategy of defence, worked out by his lawyer Dupont, was, that people didn't hear all of his words due to the din in the room. "To Louis-Philippe, if he betrays us!", was what he said, while accidentally brandishing the knife with which he was cutting his meat during the meal. After a long trial the verdict was not guilty. A short while after the trial, Galois's memoir on the resolution of equations was rejected by the Academy. Poisson was a referee. Just a month after his acquittal, Galois ran into trouble again. The republicans organised a patriotic demonstration for the celebrations of the 14th of July at the place de la Bastille. They wanted to plant a symbolic tree of liberty. A poster was prepared to incite people to attend the demonstration, but the police confiscated all the posters and wanted to arrest those republicans, which were considered responsible. They broke into Galois house - as they did with the other suspects as well - during the night preceding the 14th. Galois had been warned and was not home, but the following day he was preventatively arrested together with his friend Duchalet, roaming the streets of Paris. He was dressed in Artillery Guard uniforms - which was strictly forbidden - and armed to the teeth, carrying besides his usual knife, several pistols and his regulation carbine. This time after three months of preventive detention, Galois was harshly punished to nine month in prison until April 1832.

Written by Bernard Bychan; Last Modified: July 10, 2011

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