The Savant and the State: Science and Cultural Politics in Nineteenth-Century France

Overview

There has been a tendency to view science in nineteenth-century France as the exclusive territory of the nation’s leading academic centers and the powerful Paris-based administrators who controlled them. Ministries and the great savants and institutions of the capital seem to have defined the field, while historians have ignored or glossed over traditions on the periphery of science. In The Savant and the State, Robert Fox charts new historiographical territory by synthesizing the practices and thought of ...

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The Savant and the State: Science and Cultural Politics in Nineteenth-Century France

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Overview

There has been a tendency to view science in nineteenth-century France as the exclusive territory of the nation’s leading academic centers and the powerful Paris-based administrators who controlled them. Ministries and the great savants and institutions of the capital seem to have defined the field, while historians have ignored or glossed over traditions on the periphery of science. In The Savant and the State, Robert Fox charts new historiographical territory by synthesizing the practices and thought of state-sanctioned scientists and those of independent communities of savants and commentators with very different political, religious, and cultural priorities.

Fox provides a comprehensive history of the public face of French science from the Bourbon Restoration to the outbreak of the Great War. Following the Enlightenment, many different interests competed to define the role of science and technology in French society. Political and religious conservatives tended to blame the scientific community for upsetting traditional values and, implicitly, delivering France into the hands of revolutionary extremists and Napoleonic bureaucrats. Scientists, for their part, embraced the belief that observation and experimentation offered the surest way to the knowledge and wisdom on which the welfare of society depended. This debate, Fox argues, became a contest for the hearts and minds of the French citizenry.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Metascience - Mary Jo Nye

In writing a history of science and cultural politics in nineteenth-century France, Fox has achieved a formidable and admirable synthesis.

Sun News Network - Clifford Cunningham

Such a bold undertaking would flounder in the hands of anyone not possessed of superior scholarship and decades of experience. Savant and the State could have been written by no one other than Robert Fox.

British Journal for the History of Science - Sophie Waring

A skilful balance between speculative and thought-provoking thematic work and accounts of the specific, the confined, and the material... Brilliant and well-researched.

American Historical Review - Martin S. Staum

This work should be of inestimable value to all historians of science, France, and European culture.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Robert Fox is professor emeritus of history of science at the University of Oxford. He is editor of Technological Change: Methods and Themes in the History of Technology.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Science and the New Order 9

The Return of the Bourbons 11

Patronage, Authority, and the Profession of Science 18

Science and the Industrial Age 28

A Philosophy for the Times: The Roots of Positivism 39

Chapter 2 Voices on the Periphery 52

Academies and Societies 53

The Devotee: Nature, Learning, and Locality 62

Science and Decentralization 73

The Triumph of the Center 83

Chapter 3 Science, Bureaucracy, and the Empire 94

The Trials of Academic Science 95

Education, Industry, and the Imperial State 103

The Bureaucracy of Learning 112

The Roots of Academic Reform 126

Chapter 4 Science, Philosophy, and the Culture of Secularism 138

The Midcentury: Conformity and Dissent in French Philosophy 139

The Nature of Life: Pasteur-Pouchet Revisited 148

The Radical Synthesis and Its Enemies 159

A Faith for the Age: The Religion of Humanity 174

Chapter 5 Science for All 184

Fashioning the Audience 185

Masters of the Mass Market: Flammarion and Figuier 195

The Spoken Word 207

Broader Audiences, Bigger Stakes 214

Chapter 6 The Public Face of Republican Science 227

The Savant at War and Peace 228

Countercurrents: Science in the Catholic Tradition 241

The Republic of the Savants 250

Fin de Siècle: From Inspiration to Anxiety 259

Conclusion 274

Appendix A The French System of Education and Research 285

Appendix B Exchange Rates and Incomes in Nineteenth-Century France 291

Abbreviations 293

Notes 297

Bibliographical Note 365

Index 377

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