There are certain streets to whose names, without any conscious reason whatever, you take a dislike; the rue Monge was one of these for me. That is why I want to make my apology by telling what it stands for; it led the way from descriptive geometry to cinematography, for one thing. And this is how it happened.
But to begin with, you may look at No. 2 upon it for the inscription telling that the Porte St Victor, one of the ancient city gates, was here. And you can find at No. 16 the entrance of the still more ancient Roman Arena, although you cannot get in by that entrance but have to go around the corner. However, the street was named for a man who was the son of a peddler in Beaune (the wine-market of Burgundy). He was born in 1746, and without any instruction he discovered all sorts of things in mathematics which to be sure had been discovered before but were greatly to his credit. In 1780 we find him teaching geometry at Paris. He rose to a ministry when the people got a chance at government, but intrigues got rid of him. He was too honest. Then he discovered a method for refining saltpeter; he showed how to substitute sand for earth in the molding of cannons; he applied science everywhere he got the chance.
He helped to found the Polytechnical school, after having been the head of the Normal School; he went to Egypt with Napoleon and was most ironically given the title of Comte de Peluse, after a ruined town there. After his death they raised a monument in the square named after him at the end of this street, which runs from the eastern end of the boulevard St Germain to the Avenue des Gobelins. He died in 1818.
At Beaune, many years later, they inaugurated a monument to him, and a small boy was so much impressed by what he heard of Monge that he took it into his head to go to Paris, too. But his parents wanted him to be a doctor, and he could not follow in the path of this man he admired. That is, not professionally. He managed, however, to pursue all those complicated geometrical studies connected with the great teacher, and in 1888 he worked out a principle of analytic geometry, whereby he could describe by curves and graphs the motion which up to then had escaped being registered. This was the chronophotograph, to be called erroneously a little later, the cinematograph.
Etienne Jules Marey, known as Dr Marey, was indeed the father of the cinema, rather than Lumière and his brother, to whom the credit has often been given, even by the French.
Would Marey, I wonder, have made his discoveries had it not been for the erudition and for that spirit of applying it to life which characterized Monge? The rue Monge could not be better named.