Shadow of Enlightenment: Optical and Political Transparency in France 1789-1848

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Overview

This book is the first to place revolutionary advances in light and optics in the cultural context of France in the first half of the nineteenth century. The narrative follows the work and careers of France's two chief rivals on the subject of light: Arago and Biot. Their disagreement began on the subject of technical optics, but expanded to include politics, religion, agricultural policy, education, dinner companions, housing arrangements, photography, railroads, vital forces, astrology, the Egyptian calendar, and colonial slavery. At the heart of their disagreement was always a question of visibility, and the extent of transparency or obscurity they assigned to the world. Optical transparency formed a crucial condition for Arago's vision of a liberal republic governed by reason. Biot's call for strong forms of authority rested on his claims that the world did not offer itself up for universal agreement so easily.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fascinating material that deserves to be much better known outside the specialist community of historians of science." —Malcolm Longair, University of Cambridge

"I [would] recommend to all readers interested in nineteenth-century France. [Levitt] focuses on two main protagonists, namely, Francois Arago and Jean-Baptiste Biot. Her analysis is broadened far beyond their optical writings. We get a panoramic tour through postrevolutionary France."—Klaus Hentschel, ISIS

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199544707
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2009
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr Theresa Levitt
Assistant Professor of History
University of Mississippi I received a B.S. in physics from M.I.T in 1993, an M.A. in history from Iowa State University in 1996, and then entered the History of Science program at Harvard. My work there was supported by a Fulbright Fellowship, a GSC research grant, the Javier Arango Award in the History of Science, a Frederick Sheldon Traveling Fellowship, and an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. I spent 6 months in a pre-doctoral research position at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science before completing my degree in 2002 and beginning my current position as Assistant Professor in the History Department at the University of Mississippi.

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