Ecole Polytechnique

Ecole Polytechnique

Ecole Polytechnique, or X as it is commonly known as, is the engineering school in France. It is well known as being one of the most prestigious grandes écoles.

The school is not situated in Paris, but outside the city in a suburb called, Palaiseau, easily accessible by RER. The campus is pretty much isolated from the rest of the world atop a very high hill, which one has to trek up by foot. Thankfully, all the students live on the hill in dormitories, so they don't have to walk up the 297 stairs all that frequently. The campus is pretty ugly, featuring 80's architecture and a cold, hospital-esque ambience. The outsides of buildings are spotted with murals painted by students, which definitely add a bit of life to the place.

Would MIT students ever go to class if it meant climbing up stairs like these?

One fact we all found surprising about the school was the male/female ratio. Only 10% of students are female! The first female students only enrolled in 1972.

When we visited, the students were kind enough to show us their military uniforms, complete with sword and bicorne hat. Polytechnique is no longer really a military academy, but students still undergo some military training, and wear their nifty uniforms for special occasions and when they march in the parade for Bastille Day.

Polytechnique has a very rich history including a couple of wars, revolutions, and many famous alumni. Here is a quick list of interesting facts pertaining to X's history:

  • 1794 - The école was founded during the turbulent revolution by Carnot and Monge
  • 1805 - Napoleon makes X a military academy in order to control the misbehaving students
  • 1816-1817 - Classes are interrupted by the government as the students are misbehaving again
  • 1830 - Many polytechniciens participate in July revolution
  • 1970 - Polytechnique becomes a civilian institution supported by the state
  • 1976 - Polytechnique moves to Palaiseau

The original école, located in Paris.

Related journal entry: 
le 9 janvier