Inventions credited to the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees and its graduates include: prestressed concrete, lighting gas, and the optical lens. The school and its graduates also have been central to research in the diffraction of light, the applications of concrete, and the measurement of the strength of materials.
Responsible for the birth of many technological innovations and the education of at least one president of the French Republic and a Nobel Prize winner, the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees is generally considered to be the first formal engineering school in the world. With more than 1,000 full-time students and 800 full- and part-time faculty members, the school today remains a vital source of engineering research and education, with a host of graduate-degree options and collaborative programs in Spain, Germany, Italy, and other countries.
In contrast to the 18th-century British tradition, wherein members of the trades and professions received their educations primarily through a system of apprenticeships, the French believed in the establishment of formal training schools, where a standard curriculum based on fundamental disciplines would be taught. It was this approach to engineering education that provided the model and inspiration to those who established formal training for American engineers at the United States Military Academy at West Point in the early 19th century.