At an extremely young age, Napoleon introduced himself to the study of trajectory as well as the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau. These two categories would subsequently transform him into a brilliant commander of artillery as well as an ardent revolutionary.
“The French students laughed at him because he had dreams of personal triumph and power.” (“A Paper on Napoleon,” Norfolk Academy, VA, 1). His peers did not at that time realize that twenty years later, they would be greeting that same man as “His Majesty, the Emperor of the French.” Yet he had surpassed them far before ascending to such heights.
“In October 1784 he earned an appointment to the École Militaire of Paris. The royal military school of Paris was the finest in Europe in the years before the revolution, and Napoleon entered the service of Louis XVI in 1785 with a formal education that had prepared him for his future role in French history.” (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 307).
The program at the École Militaire was designed so that a student would spend three years in his attempts at completing it. Napoleon, however, through early demonstrations of his workaholism, graduated in only half the required time. He left the school for an artillery unit in Valence, where he would serve as lieutenant, being only sixteen-years-old.
The next eight years of his life can be summarized as a gradual ascent up the hierarchical ladder of French society. Between 1785 and 1792, he developed the foundations for his genius, continuing his studies in trajectory and topography, which later led to his appointment to the Bureau of Topography for the Committee of Public Safety.
This period of Napoleon’s life, during which he gradually elevated himself from lieutenant to captain, is more interesting in terms of the events that occurred in his homeland. In 1786, Carlo Buonaparte died suddenly and prematurely, and the seventeen-year-old Napoleon was burdened with maintenance of his family, which in turn led to his return to Corsica.
Thus Napoleon traveled back and forth between Ajaccio and the mainland in the following years, during which his social position was on the rise. The Revolution of 1789 inaugurated a change from a royalist government that evaluated people based on birth instead of merit, thereby giving Napoleon a chance to rise on the basis of his personal talents.
The more objective leaders of the French Republic took Napoleon into consideration for his ardent devotion to the new regime: “Georges Lefebvre wrote that the [future] Emperor was ‘…a pupil of the philosophers; he detested feudalism, civil inequality, and religious intolerance.’ …” (Holmberg, 1).