After going into the marine artillery upon his graduation from the École Polytechnique in 1872, Hugoniot became professor of mechanics and ballistics at the School of Artillery Lorient (1879-1882) and Deputy Director of the Central Laboratory of the artillery Navy (1882-1884). He was promoted to captain in January 1884, and in April was appointed assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the École polytechnique. He conducted, along with his colleague Hippolyte Sebert (1839-1930), research on the trigger gas accompanying the detonation of a cannon.
He invented the theory based on conservation of mass, momentum, and energy, which allowed for improvements in fluid flow studies (with applications to aerospace). The Rankine-Hugoniot equation (or adiabatic dynamics of gas) has been named in his honor.
^Roger Chéret, "The life and work of Pierre Henri Hugoniot" in Shock Compression of Condensed Matter - 1989: Proceedings of the American Physical Society Topical Conference held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 14-17, 1989, S.C. Schmidt, J.N. Johnson, and L.W. Davison, ed.s (Amsterdam, Netherlands: North-Holland, 1990), pages 12-19. Reprinted in:
R. Chéret (1992) "The life and work of Pierre-Henri Hugoniot," Shock Waves, vol. 2, no. 1, pages 1-4.