France. After meeting Andrew Ure in Scotland, he became increasingly dedicated to the cause of worker’s education.
He was a man of courage, and following the 1814 Restoration in France, when so many great men were threatened, he was ready to put his head on the block for his hero Monge and others. However, he was also constantly concerned with his own advancement. The seeds of ambition were sown early in him, perhaps because of his father’s contemptuous attitude towards him and a resulting determination to prove himself. He left no stone unturned to use his contacts and further his own multifaceted career.
Leaving behind what could have been a fine future in mathematics and engineering, he became a politician, playing a major role in French education, not least at the Paris Conservatoire des arts et métiers. He was also active on behalf of women and children in industry and was notable in the establishment of savings banks for the workers. He encouraged women to attend his public lectures.
Dupin could not be put in any political category; indeed, his stances often appeared to be contradictory. The champion of workers’ education was eventually accused of ignorance of the true needs of the working class. For Dupin, the salient issues were the progress of industry, economic growth, and the wealth of France; the education of the workers was to be directed to those ends. He was accused of paternalism, and his stance on the slave trade in 1848 would serve to strengthen that point of view. It is difficult to reconcile the courageous scholar of his early years with the politician he subsequently became. He achieved his ambitions and reached the heights he sought, being awarded the title of baron and then pair de France.
Dupin was a cultured man with an impressive talent for languages. He was charming, and many opportunities arose for him, but his life was dominated by his determination to achieve honours. In view of his deep admiration for the French poet Jean Racine, it would be tempting to find in Dupin a Racinian revirement tragique—a tragic turning point from a mathematician and engineer to a life in politics and self-aggrandizement.