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Claudius Crozet


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Born in France, engineer Claudius ‘‘Claude’’ Crozet (January 1, 1790-January 29, 1864) was destined for a military career. Following his education at the École Polytechnique (1804–07) he entered the military academy at Metz (1807–09) and was commissioned a sub-lieutenant of artillery.

Appointed to Napoleon’s headquarters, Crozet served in Germany and Holland beginning in 1809 until Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815. The following year he immigrated to the United States and was appointed an assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy. From 1817 to 1823, he served as professor of engineering at West Point, before being appointed state engineer of Virginia in 1823. He served until 1832 and was reappointed again in 1837. As state engineer, he was in charge of the Board of Public Works of Virginia, involved in numerous turnpike projects including the layout of the Northwestern Turnpike from Winchester to Parkersburg.

Later, Crozet was involved in railway construction, most notably the Blue Ridge Tunnel, which at 4,273 feet was at the time the longest of its kind in North America.

Crozet was a founding member of the Virginia Military Institute faculty, where he introduced the study of descriptive geometry in the curriculum. He taught at VMI from 1837 to 1845. He later served under Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs in the building of the Washington Aqueduct (1857–59). He became principal of the Richmond Academy in 1859 and served until his death, January 29, 1864.

Crozet made a significant contribution to the road network in Western Virginia during his tenure with the Board of Public Works. He was one of the outstanding civil engineers of America in the first half of the 19th century.

Written by Emory L. Kemp

Sources

  1. Couper, William. Claudius Crozet: Soldier - Sailor - Educator - Engineer (1789-1864). Charlottesville: Historical Pub., 1936.

  2. Hunter, Robert F. & Edwin L. Dooley Jr. Claudius Crozet. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1989.