Théodore Olivier (1793–1853)

  • J. M. Hervé
Part of the History of Mechanism and Machine Science book series (HMMS, volume 1)


Théodore Olivier is mainly known as being, in 1829, one of the four founders of Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures also named today Ecole Centrale Paris. He was a former student of Gaspard Monge and he taught descriptive geometry. He highly contributed to the science of ruled surfaces and to the theory of gearing. He designed many selfexplanatory models; most of them are movable. In rigid-body kinematics the locus of the instantaneous axes of any time-dependent motion is a ruled surface. That way, Olivier pioneered Julius Plücker’s work about straight-line geometry and, consequently, disclosed basic tools for the “screw theory” devised by Robert Ball. Moreover, with his book about the general skew arrangement of two gear wheels together with his models of gears, Olivier is one of the scientific ancestors of Jack Phillips with his book issued in 2003 on General Spatial Involute Gearing.


Descriptive Geometry Gear Tooth Bevel Gear Private Tutor Spur Gear 
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Sources of Historical Information

  1. [R2]
    Note on Th. Olivier in Histoire de L’Ecole centrale des arts et manufactures, Francis Potier, Delamotte, Paris, 1887, pp. 25–27.Google Scholar
  2. [R3]
    L’Ecole Centrale, Origines et destinées de l’Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures de Paris, Volume 1, Histoire de l’Ecole, book published for the association of former students of Ecole Centrale Paris, Bedecom SA, 1981.Google Scholar

Internet Sites

  1. [W1]
    University St Andrews Scotland, Biographies of mathematicians,
  2. [W2]
  3. [W3]
  4. [W4]
    Union College at Schenectady, noteworthy web site comprises a virtual museum of movable Olivier models of ruled surfaces in 3 dimensions.
  5. [W5]
  6. [W6] Some of the papers authored by Olivier can be retreived from

Additional Works on Ruled Surfaces and Gear Design

  1. [A1]
    Plücker, J., Neu Geometrie des Raumes gegründet auf die Betrachtung der geraden Linie als Raumelement, Teubner, Leipzig, 1868–1869.Google Scholar
  2. [A2]
    Ball, R., A Treatise on the Theory of Screws, Cambridge University Press, 1900 (reprinted, Cambridge, 1998).Google Scholar
  3. [A3]
    Bricard, R., LeÇons de cinématique, Tome II, Gauthier-Villars, Paris, 1927.Google Scholar
  4. [A4]
    Nicaise, M., Les mouvements mécaniques, Librairie Polytechnique Ch. Béranger, Paris and Liége, 1931.Google Scholar
  5. [A5]
    Selig, J.M., Geometric Fundamentals of Robotics, Springer, Heidelberg, 2005.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  6. [A6]
    Phillips, J., General Spatial Involute Gearing, Springer, Heidelberg, 2003.Google Scholar
  7. [A7]
    Stachel H., On Jack Phillips’ spatial involute gearing, in Proceed. 11th Int. Conf. on Geometry and Graphics, Guangzhou, China, August, 2004, pp. 1–5.Google Scholar
  8. [A8]
    Stachel H., On spatial involute gearing, in Proceed. 6th Int. Conf. on Applied Informatics, Eger, Hungary, January 27–31, 2004.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. M. Hervé
    • 1
  1. 1.Grande Voie des VignesEcole Centrale ParisChatenay-MalabryFrance

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