NOTCOM Reading session - Scientific societies in early modern France: was it about collaboration and consensus?

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More about the themes and authors discussed below:

Scientific societies in early modern France: was it about collaboration and consensus?

The history of early modern learned societies takes two presuppositions for granted: 1) learned societies were created to facilitate collaboration between scientists; 2) collaboration aimed at developing a more robust and consensual science, which would rely on experimental facts and common principles.

Is this how their members accounted for the existence of these societies? Did they justify their being together because they wanted to collaborate? If not, what epistemic benefits did they expect from being together? If yes, what were the most efficient forms of collaboration for scientific progress according to them?

These are questions I’d like to ask about the Académie royale des sciences and the societies that immediately preceded it. In a very – really very – preliminary way, I propose that we discuss together the following texts. Each one being short and easy to read, it is much less than it seems.

Introduction: what would have been nice

  • D’Alembert, Devoirs de l’Académicien (1750), p. 511-513

Encouraging the expression of various opinions – and moderating them

  • Renaudot, Recueil général (1656), « Avis au lecteur », n.p
  • Le Gallois, Conversations de M. l’abbé Bourdelot (1672), « Entretien servant de Preface », p. 54-63
  • Sorbière et Du Prat, « Règlement de l’assemblée de physiciens, qui se fit à Paris, chez Monsieur de Montmor l’an 1657 », in Sorbière to Hobbes, 1st Feb. 1658

Promoting observations and experiments – and looking for the King to fund them

  • Sorbière, « Discours prononcé À l’ouverture de l’Académie de physiciens qui s’assemblent tous les mardis chez Monsieur de Montmor » (1663), in Bigourdan 1917, p. 159–162 and 216-218
  • Thévenot et al., « Project de la Compagnie des sciences et des arts » (1663), in Huygens, Correspondence, IV, p. 325-329
  • Auzout, Ephéméride du comète (1665), « Epistre au Roy »

Collaboration at the Académie royale des sciences

  • Fontenelle, Histoire de l’Académie royale des sciences depuis son établissement en 1666 jusqu’en 1686 (1733), p. 1-11
  • Règlement de 1699