THE ACADEMY AND THE LARGER COMMUNITY
Medical Motivations and Social Responsibility
Although the Academy was an elite organization whose proceedings were private and secret, it was pulled toward the outside community as a result of both obligations and opportunities. Its responsibilities were intellectual, political, and social, while its opportunities included scholarly interchange with savants who were not members.
The Academy's foremost obligation was the intellectual one of advancing knowledge about the world, and to this end academicians researched and published their findings. In these respects the institution was an extension of the individuals who composed it and would have performed these activities anyway, but the institution facilitated their work.
The Academy's foundation entailed additional responsibilities, including the political one of honoring and serving the king, and these heightened the utilitarian propensities of its program. The political liabilities created by royal patronage were discharged by the Academy with every handsome publication or discovery, but also more particularly when academicians surveyed for the water supply of Versailles, tested the chemical composition of the waters supplying royal palaces, reviewed inventions with military, agricultural, or industrial potential, planned cartographic projects of the kingdom, or focused botanical research on medical applications. The Academy met its political responsibilities by associating the king's name with its accomplishments, by serving as technical consultant to the crown, and by studying ways to improve health and industry, navigation and cartography.
By comparison, the Academy's social responsibilities were less defined and less urgent. Most savants, academicians included, mouthed the maxim that natural philosophy would improve society, but fewer mounted concerted programs to achieve specific benefits. At the Academy, moreover, the distinction between responsibilities to the king and those to the populace would have been blurred by the traditional theories of kingship, which stressed the monarch's duties on behalf of his subjects. By serving the crown, the Academy was serving the kingdom. Yet academicians' own training and inclinations led them to go beyond this general tendency and to articulate a notion of accountability not only to Louis XIV and his subjects but even to all of humankind. They saw their work as potentially useful to medicine. Furthermore, religious inclination as well as the terrible condition of French peasants focused one academician's interests on a study of medicine for the poor.
Such political and social responsibilities were to some extent imposed on the Academy. Scholarly exchange, in contrast, was basic to the scientific community of which academicians were members. The Academy, however, acted sometimes as a barrier to exchange by regulating discourse between academicians and savants outside the Academy. The Academy had its own name to protect, in addition to the reputations of its individual members, and tried to control the flow of information to its and their advantage. Creation of the Academy altered the nature of dealings within the scientific community not only in Paris but also throughout France and Europe. The Academy's attributes and prerogatives turned some outsiders into admirers or skeptics, sycophants or rivals, aspirants or failures, while others remained disinterested fellow scholars.
The Academy's external relations and influence form the subject of the three chapters in this part. The first chapter provides a specific case study, focusing on how academicians discharged some of their responsibilities by combining medical interests with botanical research. With this as illustration, the second chapter considers the scientific community and its audience, and it canvasses the resources the Academy could rely on and contribute to in Paris. Finally, the third chapter examines the Academy's place in the local and international scientific communities.
The Academy's external relations had primarily an intellectual dimension but also included socioeconomic, religious, and chauvinistic aspects. Furthermore, savants claimed to seek the disinterested dissemination of knowledge but were also competing for priority, fame, and the rewards associated with success. Thus, the scope of the subject is so vast that it can
be treated only partially here, with botany providing the specific illustrations and context.
The fields of botany and medicine were closely allied, and many botanists would have said of their discipline what Clave said of chemistry, that good health was its principal aim. The Academy rejected such a single-minded purpose and subordinated medical aims to scholarly ones. Nevertheless, medical interests remained important to academicians and decisively affected their research, partly because of their previous training and partly because of demands made by the Academy's protectors.
Botanical research for medical purposes took several forms at the Academy. Academicians examined the nutritive value of plants, their uses as materia medica, and the hazards of ingesting diseased plants; they also investigated chemical medicine. Such research was important from an institutional point of view, because academicians used medical goals to shield their controversial and apparently unproductive research on plants. When asked to disband an obstinate project, academicians were able to continue some aspects of their research, albeit minimally, on the grounds that they were looking, as required, for its medical applications.
But medical goals were not an artificial construct intended only to conceal deeper, more controversial interests. On the contrary, the conviction that their activities were valuable to medicine unified a group of researchers whose approaches to botanical studies were sometimes incompatible. Academicians hoped to serve society by improving medical practice and by suggesting legislation to protect the health of the French populace. In 1689, for example, they investigated remedies for dysentery, a disorder that had afflicted Paris the year before. Nowhere, however, is their sense of obligation to the public, and especially the poor, clearer than in Dodart's analysis of the cause of ergotism, as will be seen subsequently.
The continuity and strength of medical interests are explained in part by the education of the many academicians who had been trained as physicians, surgeons, or apothecaries. Seven of nineteen in 1667 had medical backgrounds. Claude Bourdelin had been apothecary to the Dauphin, had a shop for medicaments in Paris, and is said to have practiced medicine, although he was not a physician. Louis Gayant was a Paris surgeon who died serving the king's armies in that capacity. La Chambre, a graduate of Montpellier, was ordinary physician to Louis XIII and taught at the Jardin
royal; Duclos was ordinary physician to Louis XIV. Nicolas Marchant studied medicine at Padua, while Jean Pecquet took his degree at Montpellier, was physician to Fouquet, and was indebted to Gayant in his anatomical research.
Before the reorganization in 1699, eleven more medical practitioners were appointed. Dodart, Jean Méry, and Simon Boulduc served members of the French royal family; Langlade was later first physician to the queen of Spain. Homberg studied medicine at Padua and Bologna and took his degree at Wittenberg, while Moyse Charas, a Protestant apothecary who moved to England in 1685 and took a medical degree there, had attended Huygens during a serious illness in 1670 only to be lumped together with Huygens's physicians as being timid, ignorant, and reliant on "Galenical methods & prescriptions." Du Verney had ties with the medical faculty at Avignon. Of all the physician-academicians admitted before 1699, only Dodart, Tournefort, and Tauvry took degrees in medicine at the Parisian faculty, although others had ties of family and friendship with that faculty. Tournefort had studied at Montpellier and Orange before coming to Paris, and Tauvry took his first medical degree at Angers. The foreign associate Domenico Guglielmini was a doctor in medicine from Bologna, and nearly all that is known of Morin de Toulon is that he also was trained as a doctor.
Members' medical training or experiences flavored their contributions to meetings of the Academy. Several wrote books about Galenic and chemical medicines, mineral waters, and the treatment of specific illnesses, both before and after their entry into the Academy. With 29 percent of its members before 1699 trained for medical professions, the Academy had a stronger representation of such interests than the Royal Society, where 14 to 20 percent of members between 1663 and 1687 were medical practitioners. The domination of the biological sciences by medical practitioners was a most important characteristic of the Company, as of the biological sciences generally in Europe at this time.
Had academicians' previous training and research not been enough to sustain their interest, there was also the stimulus of official pressure. This became acute in 1686, when Louvois criticized the Academy's work in botany and chemistry because it could not cure the king. Louvois wanted academicians to emphasize the practical, especially medical, uses of plants. In particular, he wanted them to challenge controversial empirics and hidebound faculties of medicine. The last concern was a traditional strategy of royal patronage, whose iconoclastic favorites included Théophraste Renaudot, the Journal des sçavans , and the Jardin royal.
Despite official encouragement, however, the Academy did not wish to
become an arbiter of medical theory and practice, although it did hope to improve medical knowledge. It found earlier treatises deficient because their authors did not explain the effects of plants on humans, describe the frequency or size of doses, state for what illnesses a remedy was most appropriate, or explain when in the course of an illness to take the medicine. Academicians proposed to remedy these defects by testing medicines, poisons, and antidotes on human subjects, but they were thwarted. Dodart wanted to try out antidotes on criminals condemned to death but could not obtain permission to do so; instead he suggested checking safe medicaments on humans and hazardous ones on animals. Bourdelin planned in 1667 to assess all remedies listed in chemical treatises and to provide them to hospitals for experiments with patients, but he was barred from doing so by hospital guardians. Instead academicians studied bloods, dissected cadavers, solicited advice from physicians, analyzed unfamiliar remedies chemically, and used as guinea pigs various animals, their own patients, and themselves. The Academy also investigated chemical medicine, with Duclos a staunch advocate of potable gold and other controversial remedies. Above all, members analyzed plants, selecting for study those believed to have medical or nutritional value.
Although the Academy had no desire to challenge the medical faculties outright, its discussions of medical issues were empirical and thus antipathetic to the way French universities taught medicine. Its work was implicitly reformist, moreover, for academicians tried to purify known medications, to produce new ones from distillants, and to publish hitherto secret cures. The Academy embraced members with divergent positions, and individual academicians were eclectic on medical issues, being neither strict Paracelsians nor unreformed Galenists. The Paracelsian Duclos used Galenic terminology to describe the action of drugs. Dodart valued chemical analysis and sought new remedies from the distillants of plants, but his theory of digestion followed Galenic principles rather than contemporary acid-alkali theories. Charas's pharmacopoeia promoted the chemical preparation of remedies from animal, vegetable, and mineral substances, especially by distillation, but allowed individual mineral cures on pragmatic grounds. His empirical eclecticism is representative of the Academy's therapeutics.
Medical interests had both negative and positive effects on the Academy's research. The Academy established its scientific program to be independent of medical research. Yet its natural philosophical inquiries remained episodic partly because they were irrelevant to medicine. When the crown demanded that academicians address medical needs, this injured
the broader program without yielding many practical results. Yet no academician argued that the Academy should refuse to seek medically useful information, and in one important respect that search benefited the Academy. That is, in a Company split by personal rivalries and disparate ideologies, threatened during the 1680s by ministerial intervention, and discouraged by intransigent chemical analysis, medical interests were a unifying force. When other aims and activities foundered, research on plants for medical purposes was acceptable to government, chemists, botanists, and natural philosophers — indeed to all with responsibility for the activity and development of the Academy.
Ergotism, Illness of the Poor
The interplay of medical motivations and botanical research at the Academy is apparent in Dodart's study, published in 1676, of how ergot injured the health when ingested in bread. His research also clarifies how the Academy served as the focus for a network of physicians interested in the medical problems of the poor.
Ergot grains grow on rye as the result of an infestation of the plant with Claviceps purpurea . The effect of this infection is to replace developing grain with ergot, a fungus that "contains several toxic principles," including the alkaloid lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. When eaten after being ground with rye into flour, the fungus causes the deadly illness then known as Saint Anthony's fire and now called ergotism, which takes either a gangrenous or a hallucinogenic form.
Both ergot and the malady it causes were well known before Dodart wrote, although the connection between them was not. Descriptions of the symptoms and course of ergot poisoning were published by German authors in the 1590s and the first decade of the seventeenth century. Some writers confused ergotism with other illnesses, and some pointed out that bad food caused the attacks, but no one linked ergot grains to the illness they caused. Although some sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature on ergot described its obstetrical uses or associated ergotism with the "honey-dew" stage of the fungus, Dodart was the first to publish the view that ergot grains caused Saint Anthony's fire and to explain why he thought so.
Dodart's article and the Academy's research on ergot were stimulated by correspondence from physicians who already understood the causal relationship between ergot and Saint Anthony's fire. Four physicians — the Montpellier-trained N. Bellay, Paul Dubé, and a man named Tuillier and his
son — plus the surgeon Chatton sent the Academy their observations and samples of infected rye. All of them came from the rye-growing region of France that included the Sologne, Blois, and Montargis. The correspondence began when the practitioners from Blois and Montargis wrote to Perrault and Bourdelin of their suspicions that spurred rye caused gangrene; they knew no warning signs of the illness and had found medication and surgery ineffective in treating patients. In 1674, after having received several communications, the Company instructed Dodart to investigate.
The Academy's informants described the sufferings of patients afflicted with Saint Anthony's fire. The illness brought on "malignant fevers accompanied by drowsiness and dreams"; this was perhaps a reference to hallucination. It dried the milk of nursing mothers and "caused gangrene in the arms, and especially in the legs, which it usually struck first." Gangrene of the limbs was preceded by "a certain numbness in the legs," and as the illness continued its painful progress, physicians observed that there was
some swelling without inflammation, and the skin becomes cold and pallid. The gangrene begins in the center of the limb and appears in the skin only after a long time, so that it is often necessary to open the skin in order to find the gangrene inside.
Sometimes surgeons amputated the infected limb in the hope of halting the spread of the gangrene. If a limb was not amputated, it became "dry and thin, as if the skin were glued to the bones, and of a dreadful blackness, without rotting." Nonsurgical treatment included ardent spirits, volatile spirits, "orvietan," and a tisane of lupines. If physicians could not agree on the course of the illness or the efficacy of various treatments, that was, according to Dodart, because the illness varied "according to time and place," which made it necessary to examine spurred rye from different areas in France.
Ergotted rye had been found "nearly everywhere," but especially in "Sologne, Berry, the country around Blois," and in the Gâtinais. It was most likely to appear where the soil was light and sandy, and it was common "during wet years," and "especially when excessive heat followed a rainy spring." Given these conjunctions, air, rain, and soil were the principal suspected causes of ergot. Based in Paris, the Academy could not test provincial air and rain, but Marchant grew rye in sandy soils brought to Paris from areas where ergot was common, and Bourdelin tested soils and grains.
Dodart studied ergot grains and compared spurred rye with other cereals. The fungus, called "ergot" in Sologne and "bled-cornu" in the
Gâtinais, appeared "black on the outside" and "rather white inside." When dried, it was harder and denser than rye grains, and Dodart found its taste not unpleasant. At the base of some ergot grains, he noticed "a substance with the taste and consistency of honey." This was the mucus, called "honey dew," which was the second or conidial stage in the development of ergot and which caused the growth of the sclerotium, or the ergot grain itself. "Infected grains" grew longer than normal grains, and Dodart observed that some were as large as thirteen or fourteen lignes long and two lignes wide. On a single blade there might be seven or eight spurs (plate 4). Academicians and their contemporaries were uncertain whether ergot was the rye itself, distorted in shape and wholesomeness, or rather "foreign bodies produced among several grains of rye." Adherents of the former, incorrect view cited the resemblance of ergot to rye and the similar taste of breads made from ergot and from rye.
Although it was widely doubted that the rotten rye caused the gangrenous sickness, Dodart believed that the absence of that malady except in persons who ate only rye bread, and the correlation between the appearance of ergot and the prevalence of the illness, argued in favor of ergot's being the cause. To verify this hypothesis, the Academy, like the elder Tuillier, ordered that bread made of ergot and rye be fed to animals.
Dodart and his colleagues recognized that ergotism respected class lines. It was a malady of the country poor because rye bread was so important in their diet. Seventeenth-century medical treatises routinely blamed mediocre food for illness among the poor. Modern research has revealed just how bad that food was. In the Beauvaisis, a wheat-producing area, 75 percent of the peasants were "condemned to suffer hunger" in good years and "to starve to death" when the harvests were bad. The diet of peasants was not nutritious: it rarely included meat, milk, cheese, or fruit of good quality. Bread, gruel, and legumes formed the basis of a diet that was "both heavy and lacking in nutrition, insufficient during winter and increasingly so as spring approached." The conditions in Beauvaisis resembled those in other areas of seventeenth-century France.
Even during good years the peasants were chronically ill, and when times were bad, starvation and death were common. Thus, if the poor consumed rye they had grown themselves, hunger and ignorance prevented them from discarding spurred rye; sometimes hungry persons begged to be given the ergot already separated from rye, in order to make their flour go further. Heavy demand for cereals, exacerbated by the army, large cities, and famine, tempted the unscrupulous to sell the ergot with rye. Ignorance and circumstance led peasants to use rye infested with ergot.
When poor harvests threatened starvation, the populace traditionally looked to government for relief, demanding official intervention against private hoarding and high prices. Local and royal governments accumulated stores of grain for sale when there was a dearth and attempted to prevent export of foodstuffs from a producing region whose own population required them for survival. Operating within this tradition, Dodart recommended legislation and hoped local officials would prevent the use of ergot as food. The Academy would assist by studying spurred rye from every region in France, in order to correlate the variations in ergotism with differences in rye and ergot. Academicians would continue to publish their findings so that magistrates could warn the people about the danger, require that all grain be sorted, and forbid millers to grind rye mixed with ergot, "which is so easy to recognize that it is impossible to mistake it" for good rye.
Dodart was probably the first to publish the connection between ergot and the gangrenous malady, and academicians and others continued his research in the eighteenth century. But many medical practitioners rejected the claim that eating ergot caused Saint Anthony's fire, and ergot poisoning was neglected even in treatises that discussed malnutrition and famine. Because maladies were defined in terms of symptoms rather than causes, Saint Anthony's fire was usually conflated with erysipelas, scurvy, and gangrene as a skin disease. Even Dubé explained Saint Anthony's fire simply as "a Mixture of bileous and pituitous Humours" without mentioning ingestion of ergot. Dodart's important article, therefore, had only a limited effect on magistrates, medical practitioners, or the principal victims of the malady.
The Academy's medical interests and Dodart's awareness of the social discrimination of certain illnesses may suggest that the Academy was sensitive to the needs of Louis's most numerous but least privileged subjects. But academicians were isolated by birth and training from most of the populace. They were academicians because they were known personally or by reputation to those in power, and indeed many of the medical practitioners admitted to the Company had served the royal family in some capacity. Academicians analyzed meat, fish, vegetables, and fruits, but these foods mostly represented the diet of only a quarter of the population of France. The Academy's notion of social responsibility was mainly irrelevant to the needs of the poor.
The Jansenist Dodart was more interested than his colleagues in such problems: he studied medicine for the poor, treated the poor free of charge, and died as a result of an illness contracted from one of his indigent
patients. But his sympathies did not prevent him from approving the use of prisoners as guinea pigs. Attitudes molded by social class shaped academicians' concepts of their social responsibilities. Dodart's work on ergotism represents only a modest effort by the early Academy to develop knowledge and legislation in the interests of the poor. Academicians, like their contemporaries, sought to improve the lot of the poor through ad hoc measures and took the social order as given. Thus, the Academy's posture is consistent with the entire pattern of old-regime reform, which conceived change always within the context of contemporary social and political structures.
Academicians hoped their work would have practical results, and especially that it would benefit health. Such considerations influenced the Academy's natural history of plants. Dodart's article relating spurred rye to ergotism epitomizes many features of the botanical studies of the seventeenth-century Academy, from its indebtedness to outsiders and use of chemical analysis to the medical interests that influenced its research. Academicians' search for the practical, medical benefits of their work stemmed from previous training and experience and also from the urgings of the Academy's protectors. By pursuing their medical interests, academicians could fulfill institutional responsibilities, protect their theoretical research when it was threatened, and put to good use their contacts with those outside the Academy. The nature of that external community and the character of the Academy's ties to it are addressed in the following chapters.
Scientific Paris at the End of the Century
The Academy was part of a larger community interested in science. This community comprised philosophers and experimenters, authors and debaters, travelers and collectors, instrument makers and teachers, medical and mathematical practitioners, amateurs and patrons. It was international and also local. While the Academy addressed theoretical issues of international concern, it was simultaneously part of a French community, to which it owed its foundation, its support, and most of its members. Far from monopolizing the practice of science in Paris or in France, academicians enjoyed ties to other savants with similar interests, as the Academy's study of ergot revealed.
The relations between the Academy and the larger scientific community — whether French or international — clarify the interests of both. During an era when cooperation was much vaunted within the scientific community, the formation of an elite, closed institution altered scientific intercourse. The Academy's association with outsiders throws into relief the hierarchy of the late seventeenth-century scientific community, the nature of the audience for science, some features of the Parisian scientific community, and the benefits academicians and nonacademicians derived from their contacts with one another.
The Scientific Community
The early modern scientific community was stratified both socio-economically and intellectually. Although biographical data are insufficient
to assess its socioeconomic structure in detail, the intellectual hierarchy of the scientific community is somewhat more accessible. During this period most scientific savants did not make a living from research, teaching, or publication, but supported themselves instead as clergy, magistrates, physicians, or the clients of nobles and princes. Indeed, the word scientist had not yet been coined, and thus modern criteria of profession are often inapplicable. There was, nevertheless, a clear recognition within the learned community that some of its members were more worthy than others. Some individuals gained reputations as savants, geometers, natural philosophers, anatomists, or botanists, for example, because of their accomplishments; others were known as amateurs or intelligencers, because their interests were more general and their contributions more modest. There were "athletes," "talkers," and "listeners," as Le Gallois put it in the 1670s, and the athletes (that is, the vigorous experimentalists) learned little from the others, who predominated in the private learned societies of Paris. Beyond the scientific community was the larger public, which variously absorbed, ignored, rejected, or was unaware of what was published by others.
The hierarchy of the scientific community depended, therefore, on the value of each member's actual contributions, and different worths were assigned to theory and raw data, with explanation more highly prized than uninterpreted information. Martin Rudwick has recently analyzed the scientific community as composed of two principal components: the elite, who determine which theories are plausible, usually preferring hypotheses put forward from their own ranks, and the amateurs, whose theories are normally rejected by the elite who may nevertheless examine the data amateurs provide. In addition, there is the interested public, whose data and theories are both suspect in the eyes of the elite, and which is regarded by both elite and amateurs primarily as having the function of audience. Individuals can move up and down the ladder, and a polymath may fit all three categories at once, but theory mostly trickles down, while some data filters up.
This analysis, developed for nineteenth-century London, is suggestive for seventeenth-century Paris. But it does not convey the enthusiasm for experiment or the faint mistrust of hypothesizing characteristic of seventeenth-century savants. Thus it does not correspond wholly to the distinctions that academicians and their contemporaries made about their community. Le Gallois's athletes were experimentalists but not necessarily theorists. What mattered was that the elite be innovative, because the next rank in esteem — whose members were called amateurs, virtuosi, intelligencers, talkers or listeners — was imitative. The scientific community also
included mathematical and medical practitioners who earned a living from surveying, making instruments, performing surgery, or composing medicaments, for example, and contributed in complex ways to early modern science. Finally, although the Academy had its own internal hierarchy, it constituted an elite institution vis à vis the rest of the scientific community.
The seventeenth-century Academy and Royal Society were composed of these various groups in different proportions. Unlike the Academy, the Royal Society depended on its members' annual subscriptions for funds and admitted larger numbers of amateurs, so long as they could pay the price. In the Academy, there were few amateurs and intelligencers — men like Thévenot, Du Hamel, and Fontenelle — but many students and practitioners, such as Niquet, Pivert, Bourdelin, and others, who did not as a rule theorize at meetings. The elite at the Academy were Cassini, Huygens, Dodart, Perrault, Duclos, Mariotte, La Hire, and others, who dominated planning and publishing and gave most of the papers at meetings. Most academicians were "athletes" in the broadest sense of the word; that is, most were serious researchers and writers, working at the edge of their respective fields.
Modest Public Interest in Science
The audience for science included the entire scientific community — elite and amateur — as well as those members of the literate public who were curious about the nature of the world. Some early modern writers recognized the importance of public interest in science. Both Bacon and Descartes, for example, emphasized the benefits that science offered to society, and Bacon thought that in exchange the public ought to supply data, while Descartes believed financial support was more efficient. At the heart of the relationship between specialists and the public were mutual benefits and overlapping interests. The scientific community and the public were united by a curiosity about the universe born from the conviction that understanding it was interesting, important, and potentially useful.
During the early modern period, science became a recreation for ever larger numbers of people, who came from ever broader cross-sections of the total population. The popularity of scientific literature in the vernacular, the publication of scientific treatises for the general reader, the development of lecture-demonstrations in the eighteenth century, the changing holdings of personal libraries, and patterns of borrowing from circulating libraries all signify this trend. Nevertheless, science remained the interest of a minority, and in some circles it was downright unfashionable.
The audience for science during the early modern period was heterogeneous, and it remains inadequately defined.
The "battle of the dictionaries" during the 1680s highlights French attitudes towards the sciences at the end of the seventeenth century. Two dictionaries competed against each other — one prepared by the Académie française, the other by Antoine Furetière, one of its members. At stake was the nature of the language. Furetière's Dictionnaire universel, with its technical vocabulary from the arts and sciences, was highly regarded despite a campaign by the Académie française to suppress it. In contrast, the Académie's own dictionary was widely criticized for excessive purism. One of the issues dividing the authors was the respectability of the sciences. Purists claimed that the lowly social origins of savants and the vernacular etymologies of scientific words made natural philosophy not respectable and thus justified the exclusion of its vocabulary. Latin, and to a lesser extent Greek, had traditionally been the language of scientific savants, and when science was a bookish, scholarly preserve, Latin's technical vocabulary and international compass made it indispensable. But as the nature of scientific inquiry changed and the ranks of natural philosophers were swelled by practitioners and others lacking university degrees or knowledge of Latin, the scientific vocabulary not only expanded but even took many of its neologisms from the vernacular.
During the sixteenth century especially, the vocabulary of the French language grew because literati explored many different subjects, championed to some extent the language of the people, and learned the technical terms of various disciplines. In the seventeenth century there was a purist reaction to this expansion of the language. But the triumph of Furetière's dictionary marks the partial defeat of those sticklers who disqualified words that referred to unseemly objects and activities or that lacked Greek or Latin forebears. In the best tradition of the previous century, Furetière remarked that architects, engineers, and mathematicians spoke good French and that a dictionary must include the language of practical disciplines.
Even scientific savants disagreed about the propriety of introducing harsh, technical terms into the delicate French language. The old-fashioned La Chambre, a physician renowned for his elegant prose and a member of both the Académie des sciences and the Académie française, urged physicians to conform to the highest literary standards so as to make medical literature acceptable in good society. But this would have entailed omitting such terms as capillaire, botanique, amputation, alimenteux, impénétrabilité, effervescence, balsamique, chirurgical, anastomose, aneurisme, and aorte
from the language, even though many were essential for discussing the most timely scientific issues. Other academicians were more receptive to innovation. Perrault and Tournefort welcomed the word botanique, Dodart and the Marchants coined new words for the natural history of plants, and Borelly, Blondel, and Auzout helped Furetière to master up-to-date scientific, technical, and medical vocabulary.
Most scientific institutions in the late seventeenth century adopted the vernacular and published their transactions in Italian, English, or French. Although the majority of books and articles by academicians appeared in French, the publications of the Academy's two permanent secretaries reflect a transition. Du Hamel's excellent command of Latin helped earn him his post, and he wrote his history of the Academy in that traditional scholarly tongue; in contrast, Fontenelle published the history and memoirs of the Academy and his eulogies of academicians in French. By the end of the century, science was commonly discussed in the vernacular in France, and scientific ideas and words had become useful metaphors in the language.
But at the very time when the vernacular began to replace Latin as the language for the sciences, literacy in France was declining. Carlo M. Cipolla has calculated that, for early modern Europe as a whole, one to three teachers per thousand persons would have been necessary to increase the proportion of those who could read and write. But "in 1672 there were in Paris 332 teachers … and about 480,000 people," or fewer than "seven formal elementary school teachers for every 10,000 people." This ratio was low by comparison with the late middle ages. In all of France between 1686 and 1690 only 25 percent of the persons "who contracted marriage … could sign their names." If the data for the Narbonne region apply generally, then "literacy among merchants and bourgeois was as high as 90 percent and more," while "among urban artisans it was about 65 percent, and among the rural population it ranged between 10 and 30 percent."
Literacy alone was no guarantee of an appetite for scientific literature, which in turn led only exceptionally to study of the new theoretical sciences. The reading public preferred religion, history, the ancient classics, and French literature to the sciences and philosophy. Moreover, this was the era when the fairy tale was in vogue and when the taste for the marvelous attracted the educated to study folktales, superstitions, and prodigies. Thus, natural histories reported monsters and other curiosities, and even academicians were not immune to fashion, although they tried to reform it. Popular treatises on science, some intended for the literate artisan or small shopkeeper, were practical, old-fashioned, and superstitious. Almanacs and books on medicine for the poor, or on arithmetic, astrology, or
travel were aimed at popular audiences, but devotional literature enjoyed a much larger share of that market. Only 5 percent of the books in private Parisian libraries in the second half of the century were scientific. Even Nicolas Blegny, the physician who compiled a book of useful addresses in Paris for 1691 and 1692, listed more music teachers (seventy-five) than physicians, and scientific practitioners and bookshops were in a minority. Except for the popular or the pseudosciences, science seems to have interested only a small proportion of the French population, and the principal audience for natural philosophy, as Henri-Jean Martin has shown, was among the upper robe, the politicoeconomic elite that dominated the cultural life of Paris.
Personal libraries reveal the kinds of scientific treatises collected in the period. Books by Bacon, Galileo, and Gassendi appeared frequently, those by Rohault and La Chambre occasionally, and Malpighi's anatomy of plants rarely. Parisian readers evinced little interest in chemistry, disdained perhaps as the domain of "sooty empirics," or in medicine, the province of specialists who made a living practicing it. The most popular fields were architecture, fortification, cartography, geography, and botany. A large number of the titles represent sixteenth-century authors. Of the official publications of the Academy, only Dodart's Mémoires des plantes appears in the inventories Martin has analyzed. Blondel was the most widely read academician, and his treatises on architecture, fortification, and geometry had appeal beyond any works by other members of the Academy. Thus, not many Parisians kept up with technology and science, and those who did preferred military subjects and natural history.
In general the audience for science was not strongly inclined to theory. It was dominated by amateurs who found scientific subjects entertaining or useful. Their relatively superficial interest is evident when their libraries are compared with those owned by the producers of scientific knowledge. In contrast to the 163 scientific books Martin identified in more than two hundred private collections, the library of Nicolas and Jean Marchant (whose work was descriptive rather than theoretical) contained more than two hundred titles on botany and medicine alone. Producers of science, therefore, were its most avid consumers, and the market for scientific books was small.
Scientific Goods and Services in Paris, 1660–1700
Although the sciences were becoming more respectable, natural philosophers and their audience formed a relatively small, indeed sometimes
intimate, community. Within France, Paris was a focal point of scientific activity. Paris attracted not only those who wished to make their fortunes and attain high office but also others who sought success within literary, musical, artistic, and intellectual spheres. It had become the cultural center of the kingdom, and once the Academy was established there, the allure of the city increased for scientific adepts.
The city offered its inhabitants and visitors variety within a small geographic range. Paris furnished the Academy's immediate theater of operations. In it lived the power brokers who controlled patronage, the printers and instrument makers who supplied the tools of the trade, and an audience eager for discourse and demonstrations. Academicians thus belonged to networks that wielded power, stimulated the intellect, and provided services. The Company's relationship to the community was twofold: it depended on local facilities for many of its activities, but it also affected the way science was done in Paris and how Parisians perceived scientific savants. To examine the Academy in isolation, therefore, would be to ignore the reciprocity between the institution and its environment.
But because the Academy eclipsed, both in fact and in historiographic tradition, the scientific community in which it functioned, the task of reconstructing that community is not only important but also difficult. In such a quest, biographies, notarial records, guide books, travel memoirs, correspondence, scientific literature, the minutes of the Academy and other learned institutions, and the personal papers of scholars, patrons, and their associates, would be of obvious help. Because scholarly intercourse relied mainly on frequent conversations that were rarely recorded, however, it is elusive. Here it is possible to offer only an outline of the Parisian scientific community at the end of the century — not, as would be ideal, as a commonwealth of competing ideas, each with its adherents and opponents, but, more practically, as a community of goods, services, and their consumers, which formed a network of overlapping interests that included the Academy.
When the Academy was founded, Paris was a city of nearly 500,000 inhabitants and 24,000 to 30,000 houses. The poet Paul Scarron wrote of it as a confused mass of bridges and filthy streets, of churches, palaces, prisons, houses, and shops, whose inhabitants were people of all physical and moral types. Its narrow streets, paved and unpaved, were lit at night by the reflecting candle lanterns installed in 1667. When Martin Lister visited at the end of the century, he observed that its houses were made of "hewen Stone … or whited over with plaister." He also remarked that very few, and then only small, signs were permitted on the streets, while statues of the
king and his forebears abounded. Although Paris lacked numerous public squares, it seemed to a foreigner to be a public city, where people liked to come "together to see and be seen" and to converse out-of-doors. The English visitor noted not only many monks but also lawyers and their wives, with "their trains carried up." In the streets, coaches traveled at speeds that endangered pedestrians, including Tournefort, who died of injuries sustained in just such an accident. The air, like that of other large seventeenth-century cities, was polluted, although it was not so unhealthy as in London. Parisian institutions that figured prominently on maps and in guidebooks included hospitals, the courts of justice, the university, the Royal Garden, monasteries and churches, the hôtels of the wealthy, and the Academy's Observatory. The city offered products ranging from glass eyes to carpenters' nails, and services from the conservation of paintings to air disinfection. As a center of culture and commodities, of architectural sights and learned gatherings, Paris inspired admiration. Locke reported ironically that Paris must "be heaven, for the French with their usuall justice extol it above althings on earth."
The city (plate 5) consisted of seventeen quarters, each with a distinctive character. Three areas especially influenced the intellectual life of Paris. On the Left Bank, the university quarter with its bookshops dominated; it was flanked by the Jardin royal to the east and by monasteries, convents, hôtels, and hospitals to the west. On the Right Bank, the hôtels of the nobility and the upper robe overshadowed in magnificence and power the crowded artisans' quarters to the east. The administrative and regal center of the city — perched on the Seine, controlling the Cité, and running along the river's edge on the Right Bank — was situated in the Tuileries Gardens and Palace, the Louvre, the Palais de Justice, the Châtelet, the Hôtel de Ville, the Arsenal, and the Bastille.
Members of the scientific community could be found in most of the city's quarters, but they were often clustered around major scholarly landmarks. On the Left Bank (plate 5b), the university quarter, for example, contained not only savants like Gallois who lived in the colleges but also many printers and their shops. Some instrument makers set up their premises on rue Mazarine and rue neuve des Fossés, streets that marked the boundary between the university quarter and that of monasteries and hôtels . At the western and eastern limits of the city, the Hôtel des invalides and the Jardin royal housed several savants, including members of the Academy. To the south, at the end of rue du faubourg Saint Jacques, was the Observatory, where several academicians lived; between the Observatory and the university quarter was the faubourg Saint Jacques, where certain parishes, salons,
and sites attracted a community of Jansenist savants, among whom academicians counted many friends. Pierre Varignon lived there with his friend and benefactor, the abbé de Saint Pierre.
On the Right Bank (plate 5a), the district around the Palais royal knew both scholars and their patrons, and the hôtels of the latter often housed their learned protégés. The Bibliothèque du roi was home to the Academy and a handful of savants, including academicians and the scholars responsible for the King's Library. Nearby, on rue Saint Pierre, an instrument maker had established his premises. To the east in the Marais, Dodart owned the family house in rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, not far from the hôtel of a tax farmer.
The administrative center of Paris formed a bridge between the Left and Right Banks, and contained several focal points for savants. Instrument makers who enjoyed royal sponsorship made and sold their wares from the Galeries du Louvre, and savants lived in the Louvre as well, as had Cassini briefly while awaiting completion of the Observatory. The rue du Harlay and the quai de l'Horloge in the Cité also attracted instrument makers and map makers. Another shop where instruments could be purchased, on the quai Peletier (now quai de Gesvres), was only a short walk from the quai de l'Horloge across the Pont au Change and along the Seine toward the Hôtel de Ville.
In the late seventeenth century, the Right Bank challenged the university quarter as the intellectual center of Paris. When the upper robe increased its patronage of learning and the arts, some savants, learned institutions, and business enterprises migrated to that district of the city. Colbert had stimulated that shift by moving the Bibliothèque du roi from the rue de La Harpe (which ran parallel to the rue Saint Jacques in the university quarter on the Left Bank), to the rue Vivienne, just north of the Palais royal where it was surrounded by the hôtels of Colbert himself, Louvois, and Pontchartrain. The appeal of these new sources of demand is clear, because shops offering scientific instruments and maps sprang up in the Cité and the Right Bank, despite the pull of the Observatory and the university on the Left Bank.
Paris supported and encouraged scholarly effort. It was a center for the manufacture and trade of books, scientific instruments, and other objects that savants and dilettantes accumulated and used. Some of its inhabitants owned private collections that might be opened to like-minded individuals for their contemplation and admiration. The city was provided with teachers of specialized disciplines and with private societies for learned colloquy. Furthermore, it benefited from royal patronage, which singled out the city
itself for attention and also situated there various institutions devoted to the theoretical and applied sciences. In short, Paris was the focus of scientific research, teaching, and discussion in France.
Publishing was essential to the learned community, and Paris was a center of the French book trade, which was in decline largely as a result of the general economic contraction. Other negative influences included royal censorship, a flourishing clandestine trade in controversial books published abroad and smuggled into France, a new expectation on the part of authors that they should profit from the sales of their books, and a preference on the part of printers for cheaper, smaller books that would reach a more numerous audience. The effects of royal censorship were obvious to Lister in 1698: he noted how few weekly gazettes were sold and how difficult and dangerous it was "to vend a Libel" in Paris. The Imprimerie royale, operating outside the normal economic constraints, could specialize in prestigious works in the large formats that had become a thing of the past for most private printers but remained attractive to the crown for propagandistic reasons. In aggregate, private Parisian printers offered only a few hundred titles a year, and fewer than two hundred of those were new. The book trade as a whole was in a weakened condition.
Nicolas Blegny's guide to goods and services available in Paris during the early 1690s told its users where to look for books on specific subjects. Persons interested in gardening could buy at the shops of Sercy and Barbin, in the grande salle of the Palais de Justice and on the steps of Sainte Chapelle, respectively. Several shops selling scientific books were located in the university quarter, on rue Saint Jacques. One specializing in foreign literature offered a life of Descartes and treatises on gout and surgery. Michallet, an imprimeur du roi, sold not only the Ordonnances pour la marine and La connoissance des temps, both official works, but also Lémery's Chimie and books on medications and the conquest of New Spain. Laurent d'Houry's shop, opposite the Saint Severin fountain, emphasized medical treatises. Cusson offered the Journal des sçavans, a weekly edited by the academician Gallois; it reviewed the latest books and contained articles (written in the form of letters to the editor), on the subjects of natural philosophy, history, and theology.
Coignard, an imprimeur du roi who sold the Dictionnaire of the Académie française, also sold geography books and Vauban's treatise on fortifications. An arithmetic for engineers by La Londe, Boyle's specifics, Duncan's Mithologie phisique, and Cordemoy's Discours philosophique were available from the widow Nion on the quai de Nesle. She sold several medical books, including Blegny's treatises, and a volume said to be the
works of Aesculapius, which Michallet and d'Houry also sold. Books by academicians on mathematics were available from Michallet and from Jombert, on the quai des Augustins. Savants like Étienne Baluze, a garde at the Bibliothèque du roi, spent their afternoons at a favorite bookshop, which offered not only items for browsing and purchase but also a place where like-minded individuals could meet and chat.
Books and articles by members of the Academy constituted a major proportion of all the literature on mathematics and the sciences published in Paris between 1650 and 1700. Academicians also published in related areas, such as the art of war, the fine arts, technology and scientific instruments, medicine, and the hermetic sciences. By establishing the Academy, therefore, the crown stimulated scientific publication, not only because the Imprimerie royale printed works by its members but also because the status of an academician apparently induced private printers to try new titles that otherwise they would have refused.
Like books, scientific apparatus — instruments, maps, globes, and other equipment — ranged from the state-of-the-art tools necessary for research to items more appropriate to the amateur or collector. Thus, they were produced and sold by makers of varied skills.
Maps were widely available and very popular; some reflected the Academy's cartographic advances. Two locations — the Galeries du Louvre and the quai de l'Horloge — were especially attractive for map makers at the end of the century because the best instrument makers were also situated there, but map makers had traditionally produced and sold their wares near rue Saint Jacques, the focal point of the book trade until demand extended significantly outside university circles. The cartographer Sanson, whose work had to be corrected after the Academy surveyed the northern coast of France, sold his maps out of the Galeries du Louvre. Mlle de Val sold maps and books on geography from the quai de l'Horloge, but a better product could be had further along the same quai from Nicolas de Fer, a royal geographer who based his Atlas curieux of 1704 on the cartographic work of the Academy and whose historical maps of Paris appeared in Delamare's Traité de la police .
The Academy relied on the best makers to construct and repair its instruments, and other savants used their services as well. Thus, for mathematical instruments Blegny sent his readers to the elite of instrument makers: to Le Bas, who as a royal artisan had a shop in the Galeries du Louvre, and to Chapotot and Butterfield on the quai de l'Horloge. The armuriers or gunsmiths Gosselin and Lagny, on retainer to the Academy for repairing mathematical instruments, occupied a three-story house owned
Apparatus for measuring time was available at the Galeries du Louvre from Isaac and Jacques Thuret, father and son; on retainer to the Academy, they also sold watches and pendulum clocks to anyone who could pay the price, including perhaps owners of private observatories. For meteorological instruments, such as barometers, thermometers, hydrometers, and aerometers, the work of Hubin, an enameler, was highly regarded. Hubin also offered a line of air pumps at his shop on rue Saint Denis, across from the rue aux Ours; he was a friend of Denis Papin, Huygens's one-time collaborator, and perhaps developed his air pumps through this association. Hubin supplied and repaired aerometers for the Academy's chemical laboratory, and his thermometers were later admired by Réaumur. Do, another enameler, offered simpler and cheaper meteorological instruments from his shop on rue du Harlay.
André Dalesme, an inventor who became an academician in 1699 and was paid from the 1680s for assisting the Academy, had a shop on rue Saint Denis near the Queen's Fountain. At it he sold the latest gadgets, such as quill pens with special nibs, an iron sheet-metal tube suitable for burning wood without a fireplace because no smoke was produced, a "thermolampe," and a "machine à vapeur". Chemists could get furnaces and crucibles at shops on the place de l'Hôtel de Cluny, on the rue Mazarine, and in the faubourg Saint Jacques.
Apparatus for the new experimental sciences was itself new and experimental, and instrument makers helped savants keep up with the latest inventions or trends. Locke collected information in his travels from anyone who was willing to share it, including "Mr. Oury, a watchmaker" whose shop was on the quai Peletier and who informed Locke in 1677 that he had "given off the way of makeing watches with very great ballances in imitation of pendulums because, but several jogs in one's pocket, they are apt some times to stand still." Butterfield showed Locke a new leveling instrument that was described in the Journal des sçavans in 1677 and 1678. When a serious experimenter at the forefront of his field needed custom-made equipment, instrument makers and lesser artisans helped design and construct it. Many of the makers recommended by Blegny worked with savants to develop new apparatus, and other, nameless artisans with the homely skills of boring tubes or blowing glass were crucial to seventeenth-century experimentalism.
But many instruments were sold for entertainment rather than for
research. Most mechanical timekeepers, for example, were decorative or instructive, not precision, instruments. Probably the work of Daniel Deaubonne, who was "a simple monk for more than thirty years," falls into this category. He made lenses and microscopes at the Abbey of Saint Germain des Prés and sold them "with the permission of the superiors, who saw that the money went to the poor." Pouilly, on rue Dauphine, made mathematical instruments, appealing to amateurs with a curious calendar designed for their studies and claiming that he could increase the power of lodestones or that his microscopes had extraordinary magnifying power. Cylindrical mirrors were available at the shop of Amielle near Saint Hilaire and from a Theatine monk who also made magic lanterns.
Natural history could also be entertaining and collectible, and menageries and gardens were fashionable showpieces of curiosity and artifice. Some curiosities provided popular spectacles and profit for entrepreneurs. Enticed into a booth advertising four exotic animals, Lister was disappointed to find only the "very ordinary" leopard and raccoon, but he enjoyed seeing in Paris a trained elephant that "bent the Joints of her Legs very nimbly in making her Salutes to the Company." Locke visited the royal menagerie half a league from Versailles, where he saw ostriches and other birds, and an elephant that ate "fifty lb of bread per diem & sixteen lbs. of wine with rice." The pépinerie, or royal nursery located in the faubourg Saint Honoré, provided a model of horticultural ingenuity and lavishness. Regarded by visitors as "worth seeing," it maintained greenhouses and an "infirmery of sick Orange-Trees," and in four years supplied "eighteen Millions of Tulips, and other Bulbous Flowers" to Marly alone. Affluent Parisians also cultivated rare plants amid fountains and prided themselves on individual methods of pruning; Louvois's garden was "one of the neatest … in Paris." To assist enthusiasts of gardening, Blegny listed sellers of plants, trees, fruits, and vegetables, and he informed his readers that Tournefort and Plumier taught how to grow plants, with Tournefort specializing in medicinal varieties. Individual academicians were skilled gardeners, but as an institution the Academy avoided horticulture and agriculture, deferring to the expertise of Jean de La Quintinie, director of gardening at Versailles, and to others.
To compensate for the impractical or ephemeral aspects of keeping live specimens, collectors could turn to the taxidermist Colson, who assisted the Academy and also offered his services to the general public from premises in the faubourg Saint Antoine opposite rue de Charonne. They could also purchase paintings of flowers and animals from Nicolas Robert, whom Gaston, duke of Orléand, and the Academy had favored; after his
death de Fontenay, near the Palais royal, and Huilliot, on the rue Bourlabé, were said to offer the best renditions of these subjects.
Savants and amateurs alike cultivated gardens and collected books, medals, instruments, maps, shells, skeletons, and other items, many of which found their way into Parisian cabinets along with paintings and objects of art. Collectors might be physicians, chevaliers, or administrators of the Hôpital général; some were women, and many were wealthy and powerful royal officials. Like Seneca's millionaire — whose slaves recited the classics from memory and thereby displayed their master's erudition — they displayed their culture by opening their cabinets to fellow enthusiasts.
Since one of the objects of collecting was to exhibit acquisitions, the reports of learned travelers abound with descriptions of the most pleasing, famous, or useful collections. These accounts reveal eclectic tastes that joined art and science, mingling beauty, utility, and curiosity. Du Vivier's rooms at the Arsenal were filled with Chinese porcelains, books, and paintings by the masters. Pierre Michon Bourdelot, first physician to the house of Condé and sponsor of a learned academy, owned "a perfect collection of all the books of philosophy and medicine." Charles César Baudelot de Dairval, author of De l'utilité des voyages published in 1686, collected coins, medals, and Greek marbles and also owned a two-pound stone recovered from a dissected horse. M. de Gaignières collected engravings of statesmen, oil portraits, manuscripts, playing cards, and maps. Nicolas Boucot, a keeper of records, owned paintings, statues, and nearly sixty drawers of shells, a fish given to him by "Lady Portsmouth, possibly out of King Charles's Collection," and a zebra skin. Certain monasteries enjoyed renowned collections. The discalced Augustinians owned a cabinet of natural history, and the cabinet des machines made by Sébastien Truchet attracted Peter the Great and other distinguished visitors to the Carmelite monastery.
The Academy maintained its own collection of natural marvels in the Jardin royal, and it owned one of Galileo's telescopes, which it had received as a gift; its salle des machines in the Observatory functioned as an educational collection for visitors. Individual academicians were also collectors. Huygens's apartment contained scientific instruments and works of art, Tournefort owned a large herbarium and shells, and Louis Morin had an impressive "Musaeum of Natural History … and of comparative Anatomies," which included "a Cabinet of Shells, another of Seeds, among which were some from China: Variety of Skeletons, etc." Blondel's well-known cabinet contained not only mineralogical objects but also works of art by Italian and French masters.
Amateurs and natural philosophers alike had broad interests, and scientific objects found a place in their collections as the odd curiosity or as a subject of more systematic interest. Proprietors who showed their collections sometimes performed an important service to serious scholars, and this was especially true of the large private libraries. The monks at the Abbey of Saint Germain des Prés, for example, were allowed to use the Bignon collection and they modified their financial policy in order to retain this right. Access to the Bibliothèque du roi depended on having access to the persons responsible for it, although it was opened for public viewing two days a week. When Lister visited, he found that books in some rooms were wired to the shelves for safekeeping, a wise precaution, for at least one sponsor canceled scholarly meetings after noticing thefts from his home. Many libraries had substantial scientific holdings, including the Bibliothèque du roi, the collections of individual savants, and perhaps some monasteries. Blegny opened his own personal library to the public; it was part of his Jardin médicinal, where he lectured on surgery, drugs, and novelties in the natural sciences. Academicians had routine admission to the Bibliothèque du roi and may have been allowed to use the private libraries of Colbert and the Bignon family when their own failed them.
Scientific discourse complemented research, collecting, and publication. It could take the form of private correspondence and conversations between scholarly intimates or of meetings attended by a dozen or more savants and amateurs, eager to see a new experiment performed or to debate a new idea. Jacques Rohault gave private lessons on Cartesianism and held weekly public conferences; Thévenot, Bourdelot, Denis, and others also sponsored scholarly meetings. In the early 1690s Blegny directed what he called the Société royale de la médecine; the abbé La Roque held natural philosophical discussions on Thursday afternoons; while on Saturday afternoons M. le Chevalier Chassebras du Bréau held meetings on history and science, and de Fontaney sponsored mathematical sessions.
Establishment of the Academy did not dismantle private scientific societies, which often included academicians. At such meetings, academicians conversed with highly regarded natural philosophers, intelligencers, nobles, and foreigners, both men and women. Particularly during the 1690s, when the Academy did not know how to fill its weekly meetings, many of its members participated in the learned group of Mathieu François Geoffroy, father of the chemist who joined the Academy in 1699: Du Verney dissected and Homberg demonstrated chemical operations; Cassini brought his planispheres, Sébastien Truchet his machines, and Joblot some
lodestones. Geoffroy's meetings were convivial and stimulating, and they brought academicians together with members of the Compagnie des arts et métiers.
The modest interest in natural philosophy and mathematics among the public, and its superficial and eclectic character even among aficionados, can be blamed on education. Learning about natural philosophy was difficult because schools offered little instruction in the sciences or mathematics. Most advocates of such teaching saw these subjects as having a fairly limited utilitarian function. Jansenist pedagogues recommended teaching mathematics and physics (along with history, geography, religion, and the classics) in order "to develop the child's judgment," and Jesuit colleges offered a thorough grounding in mathematics and its applications in gnomonics and fortifications. Parisian elementary schools for the bourgeois offered religion and commercial arithmetic, while noble youths learned riding, dance, military exercises, and mathematics. Private lessons were available, and teachers of applied mathematics, such as surveying, sometimes advertised in Journaux d'avis or at Bureaux d'adresse. Paris boasted at least fifty masters of arts who taught Latin, Greek, philosophy, and mathematics; others offered geography, foreign languages, fortifications, surveying, and architecture. Such teaching emphasized the basic skills necessary for performing military, medical, or mercantile operations. It was the collèges and university that introduced students to the new natural philosophy, primarily by trying to refute it.
For instruction in the controversial ideas of the new science and mathematics, a student did best to teach himself or herself, work with individual savants, and attend meetings of private scientific societies. This was how many academicians had developed their knowledge and skills. In Paris savants like Lémery, Rohault, and Ozanam, some of them autodidacts themselves, offered instruction in their specialties. Although the Academy was not designed as a teaching institution, some of its members gave lessons at the Observatory, with Rolle for example specializing in algebra. The crown sponsored tuition in pure mathematics and the applied sciences. The Collège royal, where Varignon, La Hire, and Gallois were professors, was known for its teaching of mathematics. Blondel and La Hire were professors in the Royal Academy of Architecture, which was like a craft organization in that its purpose was to teach the principles of architecture. The Jardin royal tried to improve medical practice and reached a large audience with public lectures on botany, chemistry, and anatomy; its garden was "open also to Walk in, to all People of Note," and once replanted to illustrate Tournefort's classification, it educated in theoretical
as well as medical botany. The concentration of patronage and scientific savants, goods, and services, therefore, made Paris a center of education in science and mathematics, and especially of informal tuition in the new science.
Publication was important to the scientific world, but so were the personal contacts among scholars, fellow collectors, artisans, teachers, and students. All sought opportunities to study, converse, circulate manuscripts, or display some novel curiosity, and academicians participated along with everyone else. Paris encouraged a healthy mingling among the elite, amateurs, and the public, and by attracting provincials and foreigners, it broadened the contacts available to everyone. Just as it was a necessary stop on the scholarly grand tour of Europe, Paris was also an attractive destination for the ambitious savant who hoped to make a name for himself. The Academy and its members were important in both respects.
Scientific Paris abounded in shops and institutions, meetings and lectures. Science was to some extent a sociable discipline, and Parisians with an inclination toward natural philosophy took advantage of the varied opportunities the city offered. The Academy was an important participant in Parisian scientific circles. It contributed to a slight topographic shift of the scholarly community from the Left to Right Bank. Its transactions with instrument makers encouraged the trade, and its improved cartographic techniques were adopted by map makers. Its Observatory was open to visitors who could learn from the equipment and maps displayed there. Academicians participated in other scientific gatherings. They also collected books, natural curiosities, and instruments, and they educated the public through their publications, in private lessons, and by teaching at institutions sponsored by the crown. Scholarly interchange with persons outside the Academy remained important to academicians, who sought contacts in Paris and abroad. Members of the Academy were not cloistered, but avidly sought contacts. The use they made of these connections, however, was complicated by personal competitiveness among savants and by institutional interference.
Academicians and the Larger Scientific Community
Because scientific issues went beyond linguistic and geopolitical boundaries, early modern savants, like their modern counterparts, maintained far-flung contacts. The Baconian and Cartesian programs advocated sharping research and information, and savants found it advantageous to do so. As a result, they sponsored and attended learned meetings, and contributed and subscribed to periodical literature. They also engaged in voluminous correspondence and traveled to visit well-informed individuals, famous collections, or learned academies.
Academicians were no exception. They, too, valued the idea of cooperation, which they tried to put into practice among themselves and with those outside the Academy. In seeking out like-minded persons for intellectual stimulation, they were not dependent on the local community, and in fact their Parisian ties were often less important to their work than more distant ones. The surviving correspondence, published and unpublished, of savants suggests how important were such exchanges of information and opinion and how wide was the geographical reach of seventeenth-century scholarly networks.
As an institution, the Academy favored collaborative research, correspondence, and publication as means of sharing data. As individuals, academicians participated in every kind of scientific activity, locally and worldwide. But the Academy demanded a particular allegiance from its members, one that limited their freedom to exchange scientific information. In that respect the Company differed from most other contemporary
scientific societies. It offered privileges — such as pensions, facilities for experiment and observation, and subsidized printing — that its members could not get elsewhere, and in exchange, it closed its meetings to those who were not members and required academicians to keep its business confidential. Membership in the Academy conferred privilege and status, but at a price. In exchange for privilege, the Company exacted a pledge of secrecy and tried to censor what reached the public.
Private Contacts Between Academicians And Other Savants
Although by and large savants would have agreed with Mariotte that progress in natural philosophy depended on cooperation, there were many obstacles to their doing so. The impediments to effective scholarly collaboration derived from not only personal traits and socioeconomic circumstance but also allegiances to religious, intellectual, or political views.
An overriding motivation for scholarly research was the quest for personal gloire . Savants like Du Hamel accepted this as a part of human nature, while Mariotte and others deplored it as a sign of "bad faith" and a cause of stagnation in scientific inquiry. But other individual traits also affected learned collaboration, sometimes negatively. Personal inclination made some natural philosophers gregarious but others reclusive: Lister and Locke pursued every lead, using their travels to visit anyone with a promising reputation or collection; in contrast, the Jansenist botanist Louis Morin took as his motto, "visitors honor me, those who stay away give me pleasure." Some savants had incompatible personalities, and still others would not collaborate with each other because of previous clashes.
Differences in social status were important barriers to learned discourse: on the one hand, inferior social standing disqualified some persons from attending scholarly meetings, while on the other, social superiority made some savants reluctant to dirty their hands in the practical labors necessary to perform certain experiments and closed their minds to the contributions made by artisans. Financial limitations hampered scholars, preventing them from building their libraries, purchasing equipment and supplies, or traveling to educate themselves; Ray was grateful to his friend, the wealthy amateur Francis Willughby, who made it possible for Ray to travel by paying his way as a learned companion on Willughby's grand tour of the Continent. Ignorance of Latin and foreign vernaculars circumscribed a savant's field of inquiry, and neophytes simply did not know where to go or
whom to seek out; to some extent such problems resulted from social and economic circumstances that limited educational opportunities.
Religious, political, and intellectual influences were also decisive. Religious discord — whether between Protestant and Catholic, between Jesuit and Jansenist, or between rival religious orders — made some savants antagonistic toward one another and could affect how scholars formulated scientific questions or hypotheses. Political instability also impeded scholarly intercourse in several ways. During the reign of Louis XIV, French, Dutch, and English savants struggled to avoid embargoes on the exchange of correspondence and books; Lister's pleasure in visiting Paris during 1698 was heightened because France had been inaccessible to English scholars during the recent wars. Some savants were more seriously affected if they used their scholarly pursuits as a cover for clandestine activities on behalf of one side or the other, allowed their scholarly inclinations to be swayed by chauvinistic feelings, or lost their lives in battle. Ultimately, intellectual sectarianism also divided scholarly ranks and obstructed reasoned discourse; Mariotte was distressed by the blind devotion to ill-chosen scientific camps that he believed was prevalent, and he hoped that a sound logic could overcome this problem.
Within the limits imposed by such hindrances, however, academicians maintained a lively exchange of data and opinions both within France and internationally. Because their ties were intellectual, political, religious, social, and occupational, the stimuli to investigate scientific questions often came from unexpected quarters. Mariotte, for example, was influenced by Jean Baptiste Lantin to investigate plant physiology, and his published works mention correspondents in distant corners of Europe. Duclos influenced the chemist Le Febvre and corresponded with Paul Ferry of Metz about books and religious concerns. Thévenot urged Mabillon to arrange a correspondence with Malpighi for the benefit of the Academy. Dodart was active among Jansenists as physician and confidant and, at Antoine Arnauld's urging, represented Jansenist interests to the king. Tournefort stayed in touch with a wide circle, including not only Plumier and Fagon in Paris but also correspondents throughout Europe. Dodart, Bourdelin, and Duclos associated profitably with Vallant, the physician to Mme de Sablé and the duchesse de Guise; the four colleagues shared gossip about medicine, foreign customs, and scientific findings.
International contacts were prized by all savants, not least because, as Fontenelle later pointed out, different lands yielded different opportunities to savants. Travelers sought meetings with their foreign counterparts, and
acquaintance begun in person might survive at a distance through correspondence, with both parties conveying information about other savants. Many savants studied abroad, often formally at university, as did Nicolas Marchant at Padua. Homberg had traveled extensively to study and earn a living in Europe before settling in Paris, and his ties with German and Swedish savants — he learned from Kunckel how to make phosphorus and studied mining in Sweden — influenced his contributions to the Academy. Savants who could not travel depended on correspondents to keep them informed about the latest news and to send observations and natural curiosities.
Anglo-French contacts have been investigated more thoroughly than other contacts because of the comparisons to be made between the Academy and the Royal Society. But ties between French and English scientists were common well before the two scientific societies were established. Nicolas Marchant and Robert Morison, for example, had been colleagues in Blois at the garden of the duke of Orléans, and in later years too had similar ideas about how to study plants. The private French societies that preceded the Academy included many members with English connections, and the Royal Society hoped to establish a regular correspondence with Montmor about the activities of his academy. There was considerable curiosity about the Royal Society's membership, purposes, and activities, and its experimental program excited admiration.
This tradition continued after the Academy was established, to the benefit of both institutions and their members. The rival societies measured their own success by each other's accomplishments and envied one another's advantages: the seventeenth-century Academy had no Oldenburg, no Philosophical Transactions, but when Fontenelle began publishing the annual Histoire et mémoires at the beginning of the eighteenth century, Lister worried that the Royal Society would "sink apace" unless it followed suit. Huygens, Du Hamel, Blondel, Charas, Roemer, and Thévenot traveled, studied, or worked in England; among the academicians appointed before 1699, Auzout, Cassini, Huygens, Fontenelle, Lagny, and Varignon were or became Fellows of the Royal Society. After his travels in England, Tournefort corresponded with several English scientists whom he had met, including Lister and Edward Lhwyd. Dodart sent inscribed copies of the 1679 edition of the Mémoires des plantes to Morison, Grew, and Locke.
All the travel was not in one direction, and English savants valued their contacts with academicians and other savants. When Locke visited France during the 1670s, he became acquainted with dozens of scientists, including
the Protestant Charas (who was not yet an academician and with whom he stayed briefly), Picard, Auzout, Cassini, Roemer, and Thévenot. He visited the Observatoire and the Bibliothèque du roi, and in April 1679 he saw the garden that future academician Louis Morin maintained at the Hospital of the Incurables in the faubourg Saint Germain, admiring "amongst other things there Thlaspi semper virens semper florens," which he found "extraordinary" because it always flowered. News of academicians reached England, through letters and hearsay, and in the 1670s Oldenburg kept the Royal Society informed about Mariotte's work and urged Fellows to imitate his studies of winds.
Correspondence reveals a substantial thread of Anglo-French botanical cooperation: seeds, plants, and books were exchanged and friendships initiated, and Perrault claimed that the correspondence between La Quintinie and the English would fill three printed volumes. Henri Justel offered in 1682 to establish regular communication between academicians and English scientists, and in 1684 he tried to arrange an exchange of plants between Jean Marchant and the bishop of London. At least some scholarly exchanges were motivated by the hope among English savants of obtaining patronage from Louis XIV, but others seem disinterested.
Huygens's correspondence reveals the range of acquaintances and the merits of scholarly exchange for a seventeenth-century academician. His familiarity with English and Dutch scientists affected several disciplines at the Company, including botany. Huygens visited London in 1661, 1663, and 1689, going to meetings at Gresham College, being admitted to the Royal Society in 1663, and attending its meetings then and in 1689. He followed with interest the activities of his English colleagues and reciprocated with advice, details of his own research, and information about continental savants. Robert Moray, Henry Oldenburg, and other English correspondents supplied him with publications such as Hooke's Micrographia and Digby's Vegetation, and sent word of Grew's and Malpighi's botanical studies. Huygens kept in touch with Boyle through intermediaries; Boyle's books were sent to him regularly on publication, and Huygens reciprocated with his Horologium oscillatorium. As an intermediary between the French and the Dutch, Huygens performed the valuable services of introducing Hartsoeker to the Academy and of translating Leeuwenhoek's correspondence for the Academy.
Informal contacts between outsiders and academicians as individuals enriched their personal and intellectual lives. They also influenced botanical research at the Academy in five specific ways. First, they stimulated Huygens to develop the air pump and to experiment with the effects of
airlessness on plants. Second, they led Huygens to develop the spherical microscope, with which he and other academicians viewed animalcules and pollen. Third, Mariotte examined the composition and nutrition of plants in response to questioning from Lantin, who was therefore partly responsible for Mariotte's and Perrault's debates on the subject in 1668. Fourth, the Marchants obtained many varieties of rare plants from foreigners who sent seeds and dried samples. Finally, correspondents drew the attention of Perrault, Bourdelin, and Dodart to the correlation between ingesting ergot and suffering from Saint Anthony's fire; this also affected Dodart's investigation of medicine for the poor. Without the influence of Boyle, Leeuwenhoek, Hartsoeker, Lantin, the Marchants' correspondents, and several French doctors, botanical research at the Academy would have been much impoverished during the seventeenth century.
Institutional Regulation of Contacts
But private contacts between individual savants do not tell the whole story, not only because the Academy sometimes tried to regulate such connections but also because it entered as an institution into official relations with individuals and societies. In looking at the ties between the Academy and nonacademicians, two distinctions are important. The first has to do with conflicts between institutional and individual interests, the second with conflicts between principle and practice.
Academicians were both private scholars and members of the Academy, and their individual activities sometimes conflicted with institutional policy. Before joining the Academy, their contacts with other savants had been limited only by opportunity, personal caution, or taste. But as academicians they were expected to circumscribe their external exchanges if these were made on behalf of the Academy or if information conveyed about an individual's ideas might betray the activities of the institution as a whole.
Viewed from this perspective, the actual contacts between academicians and outsiders reflect varying degrees of conflict between individual and institutional interests. Least threatening to the institution were the private lessons that many, perhaps most, academicians gave, or the medical services performed by about a quarter of them. More worrying were Cassini's and Homberg's demonstrations of experiments and apparatus at private conferences, because these might reveal secrets and because participation in such meetings diluted the two academicians' allegiance to the Academy at a time when it was in trouble. In more direct challenges, many academicians defied the policies of the institution. Huygens, for example, corresponded
about the very questions debated in meetings of the Company, and Duclos published a book against the Academy's wishes.
At both the individual and the institutional level, however, theory and practice were at odds. Savants espoused cooperation, sought widespread contacts with other scientists, and valued exchanges of ideas and information, so long as such exchanges did not endanger their own priority of invention, discovery, or explanation. Scholarly exchanges among individuals were therefore sometimes circumspect.
In seeking to establish formal relations between itself and other scientific societies in France and abroad, the Academy institutionalized the inclinations expressed, the compunctions felt, and the restraints exercised by individuals. At the same time it deliberately held aloof from certain scholarly habits of the time. Colbert organized reciprocal relations between the Academy and its provincial counterpart in Caen, and the Academy and the Royal Society established irregular means of communication. But the Academy also changed the traditional rules of the scholarly community: mathematicians, for example, often issued challenges in the form of difficult problems, depositing their own solutions with trusted third parties; but when one academician solved such a problem, he refused to forward his solution to the bookseller named as referee by the challenger, claiming instead that the Academy was the supreme referee.
The Academy set itself apart from and above the rest of the scholarly community in still another respect. In contrast to the scholarly ideal of cooperation and exchange of information, and unlike the scientific academies organized by Montmor, Rohault, or Bourdelot that mostly welcomed the interested public to their meetings, the Academy established a rule, recorded in the minutes of 15 January 1667, that "the business of the Academy should be kept secret and … communicated to outsiders only with the approval of the Company." Twenty-one years later another prohibition was announced: academicians were forbidden to publish without the permission of the Company, such approval to be granted only after examination of the manuscript in question.
There were several reasons for the Academy to adopt the rules about secrecy and publication. "Fear of public satire" may well have influenced academicians. Henri Justel thought so and wrote to Oldenburg in December 1667 that the Academy was keeping its activities secret "because there are those here who seek to make fun of it." Such a fear would have been reasonable in light of the ridicule endured by the Royal Society, ranging from Dr. South's oration in Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre in 1669 and Henry Stubbe's mockery, to plays by Thomas Shadwell and Aphra
Behn. On the French stage as well, in the works of Molière and others, philosophers and physicians were figures of fun. Huygens, melancholic and jealous of his own reputation, believed outsiders were envious of the Academy and especially of him.
Dread of mockery certainly motivated the judgment in 1677 that Duclos should not publish his book on the principles of natural mixts. His manuscript was read by a committee composed of Du Hamel, Blondel, Mariotte, and Perrault, who voted against publication on the grounds that Duclos's views would offend "some delicate Philosophers, who cannot suffer what seems to them to look like Platonism." They claimed further that Duclos's views were no longer novel, since they had been expressed by Athanasius Kircher in 1667. After the committee refused permission to print the work, Duclos abided by the decision for three years while he revised the book, and then sent it to Amsterdam for publication; he was posthumously vindicated when the Academy, better established and less fearful for its reputation, included the treatise in an eighteenth-century edition of its collected works.
The Academy behaved in this fashion not only to protect itself from gibes but also because academicians wanted priority and fame for themselves. There were two principal threats to such ambitions: academicians feared one another and they feared outsiders. In 1686 they took measures against the misappropriation of material by immediate colleagues, requiring that the Academy examine any manuscript a member wished to publish and reserving the right to set the record straight about works already published. Cassini's personal power and anger with La Hire lay behind this particular ruling, but there had been other disputes among academicians, notably Mariotte and Huygens, and the problem continued to aggravate members of the Academy.
As for outsiders, academicians worried about simultaneous discovery and preemptive publication. Even Du Hamel, who was generally enthusiastic about exchanging discoveries with foreign academies, justified secrecy in order to forestall success by others. Research was motivated, he said, by the hope of gaining fame through priority. This view was no less common in the seventeenth than in the twentieth century, despite protestations in both eras about cooperation. Thus, the Italian mathematician and physiologist, G. A. Borelli, a member of the Accademia del Cimento, wrote to Prince Leopold along similar lines: he wanted to know what Montmor's Academy was doing, but he feared that the French would
make themselves the authors and discoverers of the inventions and speculations of our masters, and of those that we ourselves have found. This fear makes me
go slowly in beginning this corresponding with those gentleman of the Parisian academy, since in writing, one cannot do less than communicate something or other, and I fear that this may give those foreign minds an opportunity to rediscover the things; I am speaking of the causes, not the experiments.
Fontenelle later described the basis for such concern:
for persons familiar with a particular field, sometimes only a word is necessary to make them understand all the nicety of an invention, and perhaps then they will carry the matter further than the original authors. That is what Galileo did with respect to telescopes.
The aim of academician and Academy alike was to balance reticence and publication, keeping in mind that absolute secrecy was impossible for a group whose members boasted numerous ties with other circles and enjoyed discussing their activities.
If individual members were jealous of their reputations, so was the Academy of its own. When secrecy backfired — as when Fagon credited Boccone for a plant that the Academy had already engraved — academicians raged about a conspiracy against the institution. Books produced by a team of academicians posed a special problem: should the preface identify each contributor or should it simply say that the volume represented the work of the Academy? In 1676 the Academy adopted the former practice for its Mémoires des plantes , but eleven years later it preferred the latter for its Mémoires des animaux . The opposite difficulty surfaced when La Hire prepared a treatise on magnetic variation and a new compass. He was reluctant to publish under his own name, but the Academy did not want the book to be an official treatise, because unlike the Royal Society it did not disassociate itself from the views of members. La Chapelle wrote to Huygens about the matter, explaining that
this topic, which is one of the most sensitive in Natural Philosophy, is subject to many contradictions. This means that the uncertainty of all these hypotheses, while provoking controversy and settling nothing, will simply incite others to make new discoveries.
When an academician sought recognition by risking the reputation of the Academy rather than his own, he encountered official resistance, especially when his inconclusive findings might enable others to surpass his work.
The security of the kingdom was a further reason for delaying publication. As père Léonard explained it, academicians were subject to royal censorship, just like any other writer, and not until 1705 did they gain the right to publish the works of the Academy without first obtaining an
"approbation." Thus, after Blondel had written his Art de jeter des bombes in 1675, "Louis XIV forbade its publication at that time lest his enemies profit by it." Delay of course opened savants to the risk of seeing their ideas published by others first or of discovering, as the Florentine Accademia had with its Saggi , that their treatises were no longer timely.
The greatest obstacle to publication was the crown. Academicians were readier to publish than were their ministerial protectors. The latter could undermine projects by a remonstrance or refusal of funds, and they often delayed or thwarted publication by turning down requests to publish or by halting printing once it had begun. Thus, when Louis XIV visited the Academy in December 1681, academicians presented him with a list of works ready for publication, but few ever appeared. During the 1680s La Hire planned to edit selected papers of academicians for an official publication, "especially since I do not see that anyone is presently disposed to having our registers printed as we would have hoped." He obtained permission from Louvois to publish on this reduced scale only after making "several requests." But in the late 1680s and early 1690s, Louvois prevented the Imprimerie royale from completing the printing of several works.
Academicians were eager to discuss and publish their work. While they did not want to help rivals solve problems before them, they aspired to praise for their accomplishments and fretted lest once timely writings become disappointing relics. The Academy's official protectors were somewhat more reluctant to publish, however, because they were solicitous of the reputation of the king and the Academy, because they favored some projects at the expense of others, or because the treasury could not afford it. Publication was taken seriously as a means of enhancing the name of sponsor, Academy, and academician, and it was planned with ambition and vigilance.
The Academy resolved conflicts between its objectives and its fears pragmatically. During the 1660s it released news of its dissections anonymously in the Journal des sçavans . During the 1670s, the Imprimerie royale printed several books for the Academy on mathematics, botany, and anatomy, and academicians like Huygens signed the articles they published in the Journal des sçavans . After 1678 treatises by individual academicians appeared regularly, mostly via private publishers (some of them also imprimeurs du roi ) rather than the Imprimerie royale. Only one collective work — the observations of the Jesuits in the Far East edited by Thomas Gouye — came out during the 1680s, even though the Imprimerie royale had begun printing at least two other such volumes and La Hire was editing the treatises of deceased colleagues for publications. In the 1690s official
works reappeared and a new format — monthly articles printed by the Imprimerie royale — was tested. Throughout the entire three decades, academicians wrote articles and treatises, asked the crown for permission to publish at the Imprimerie royale, submitted their manuscripts for vetting by colleagues, and then sought ways of evading the negative recommendations of protectors or committees.
Taken as a whole, corporate and individual publications earned prestige for the Company. They were reviewed in both the Journal des sçavans and the Philosophical Transactions , which also printed articles by academicians. Such publicity and other methods ensured extensive dissemination of the Academy's work. Thus, news of the chemical laboratory reached Sweden, and academicians' views on germination and the classification of plants influenced Swedish botanists. Tournefort's publications circulated most widely; his system of classification was adopted by botanists in England and France, and his posthumous Relation d'un voyage au Levant , published in 1717, became one of the most popular books in eighteenth-century Paris. The practical and theoretical writings of Dodart, Mariotte, Perrault, Lémery, Charas, and others also attracted attention in the eighteenth-century, when many were reprinted.
The Academy espoused collective endeavor, communal publication, free exchange of information, and progress in knowledge. These ideals were tempered by the hope of individual renown and the desire to develop a strong reputation for the Academy. Insofar as academicians' publications were well received, the Academy's program was successful.
The Character and Benefits of Contacts
Complete corporate exclusiveness was impossible and undesirable, and controlling publication in order to enhance the institutional reputation was only a small aspect of the Academy's relations with outsiders. Academicians depended on outsiders for information, inspiration, and practical assistance, and they reported weekly what they had gleaned from collaborative work, discussion, or reading. The Academy had an exclusive character but many external interests. As a rule, it controlled its contacts with outsiders so as to preserve its own advantage whenever possible.
As a body, the Academy interacted with nonmembers in several ways: it received unsolicited communications, employed assistants, admitted visitors to meetings, solicited information, and kept abreast of the literature. The content of these official exchanges, the stature of the persons contacted,
the flow of raw data to the Academy and of publications from it, the motivations for contacts, and the way such relations influenced it reveal a Company at once dependent on and isolated from contemporary savants. Since only a fraction of the information about contacts between the Academy and the rest of the scientific community survives, however, conclusions cannot be pushed too far, especially when they depend on negative evidence.
Unsolicited communications between academicians and those outside the Company were plentiful. Nonacademicians approached the Academy personally and through letters or intermediaries. They offered information, inventions, observations, and experiments. Some dedicated books to the Academy or its members. These scientists and amateurs of uneven capabilities were not reimbursed, and their motives varied. Some hoped to become academicians, while others sought official approval of an invention or techniques, and still others were disinterested and simply wished to help the research of academicians. Sometimes these outsiders believed that the Academy had taken advantage of them by stealing their ideas.
Unsolicited letters were primarily disinterested and had the least important content of the many forms of intelligence received; they contained reports of medical remedies or, more often, observations of eclipses, and accounts of curious phenomena and experiments. Occasionally correspondents sent data directly pertinent to the Academy's work on plants. Materials submitted unasked announced friendship or support; many were self-interested ploys. These unsolicited communications were also part of ordinary scientific discourse and reflect genuine public interest in scientific novelties and natural curiosities. But they were often of little value to academicians and do not bespeak real collaboration between the Academy and the larger community.
Academicians hired and trained scientific practitioners whose special skills — from dissection, taxidermy, distillation, and illustration to surveying and astronomical observation — were required for certain projects. They also commissioned scientific instruments and models of new inventions and machines from instrument makers, artisans, or others. The natural philosopher Nicolas Hartsoeker established his career as a result of his close association with the Academy during a twelve-year sojourn in Paris. He made lenses for the Observatory and supervised the production of scientific apparatus for the Jesuits who represented church, king, and Academy in the Far East; in 1699 he became a foreign associate of the Academy. The instrument maker Michael Butterfield made the expensive
silver planisphere which on one side showed the Tychonic and Copernican systems, and on the other the stars in the latitude of Paris. At the end of the century, when he was a royal engineer and had lived in Paris so long that he wrote English awkwardly, Butterfield passed information and books between academicians and Lister.
When academicians' assistants were scientists or instrument makers of independent reputation, the prestige of being an academician may well have been blurred for the student or other lesser members. Academicians Niquet and Couplet, for example, fell into "an inferior category and … were there only to listen and to carry out whatever was decided by the Company, and especially to make the observations it needed." Compared with David du Vivier, who collaborated in the preparation of academicians' maps and became royal geographer in 1680, their opportunities for advancement or even to contribute to the Academy's work may well have been limited. Couplet's name figures along with Dalesme's among those who were paid for constructing models and instruments; Claude Perrault and his brother thought of Couplet as merely "the usher of the Company and then … caretaker of the Observatory." Some assistants got paid more for their work than did some academicians. The distinction between lesser academician and hired assistant was further weakened when assistants like Chazelles and Dalesme became academicians.
The contributions of these hired assistants were more important than most of the unsolicited communications, since the assistants actually participated in the research of the Academy. But these were usually not instances of cooperation between intellectual equals, but rather were associations of teacher and pupil, master and assistant. Practitioners supplied specific skills and the extra hands necessary for carrying out certain tasks, and they were not expected to display the theoretical insights or breadth of interest that characterized academicians. Thus, as was the case with the suppliers of data, the ensuing collaboration was more often between unequals than between peers.
Occasionally outsiders were invited to attend a meeting, usually to read a paper or to demonstrate an invention. The privilege was extended on very few, for academicians and their protectors understood that their effectiveness depended on freedom from intrusions. Cassini told Francis Vernon that no one "of what quality soever" who was "not of their own body" was admitted to their conferences, but the rule was relaxed for those who could contribute something scientific. Some visitors eventually became academicians. Homberg, appointed academician in 1691, had demonstrated experiments with an air pump and made phosphorus for the
Academy in 1683 and 1687. Papin became a corresponding member in 1699; he had visited the Academy when he was working with Huygens on the air pump. But because secrecy was a rule of the Academy, it closed its doors to nearly everyone.
The common feature of all these contacts with outsiders — via unsolicited communications, hired assistants, and visitors — is that academicians received useful information, aid, and demonstrations. This trait is further epitomized in the information submitted in response to requests. Academicians convinced the public to share information with them. Fontenelle reported that by 1686 the Academy had
adopted some Correspondents who learned from it how to question Nature correctly, and to study things with the eyes of Philosophers; very often the Academy has been enriched by Foreigners who have hastened to share the rarities and curiosities that Nature has sown in their province.
Among the fields that profited most from this kind of support was astronomy. Many of Cassini's informants began their association with the Academy through unsolicited communications. As a result of his encouragement letters flowed to him from the provinces whenever there was an eclipse; the data were recorded in the minutes and published in the eighteenth-century annual Histoire et mémoires .
Dodart exhorted his readers to convey botanical observations, experiments, and criticisms to the Academy. He hoped "to stimulate the Public to cooperate" with the Academy "to the advancement of" its natural history project. For the sake of the public good, Dodart appealed to all persons who understood botany and the chemical analysis of plants "to communicate their thoughts" to the Company; in return he promised that future publications on plants would acknowledge by name those whose ideas had been helpful, even when academicians had to be content with anonymity behind the corporate name. He also signaled academicians' intentions to send "Memoirs to the medical doctors with whom we have dealings and to give an account to the public of what they inform us." Dodart followed this practice in writing about the remède des pauvres and ergot. Indeed, his article on ergot published what a few other physicians already knew, for the Academy mainly tested and verified the hypotheses of its informants, acting as a clearing-house of information about the disease and its cause.
Other botanists in the Academy obtained information and samples from travelers. Thus, before departing for China the Jesuits visited the Academy in order "to learn what matters of natural history the Academy would like them to correspond about," especially with respect to plants. As in the
case of ergot, accounts of the Jesuits' scientific observations were published by the Academy, with the justification that this was its own work, since the authors "wrote it in concert with the Academy, and in accordance with the instructions they had received." Academicians and their protectors put requests to French diplomats, and letters describing the flora of Smyrna, drawings of plants, animals, and other objects seen in the Straits of Magellan, and a paper on ginseng were among the prizes obtained from travelers.
Nicolas and Jean Marchant, with the help of Huygens, Justel, and others, fostered contacts around the world in order to obtain rare seeds and cuttings. Flora came from Portugal, the Americas, Italy, the south of France, Holland, and England; the Academy's suppliers included Vespasian Robin (of the Jardin royal), Pierre Magnol (professor and director of the botanical gardens at Montpellier), the academician Jean Richer (who brought plants from Cayenne), and Bishop Compton of London. Such success seemed to justify Nicolas Marchant's confidence that nonacademicians would communicate information, advice, and materials in response to the requests published in the Mémoires des plantes .
Academicians pointedly sought help in two ways from outsiders: they paid for skilled assistants and they solicited information. In both cases, the Academy absorbed the contributions of outsiders into its own research and publications. The royal institution transformed raw data into hypotheses, verified theories, and took part of the credit for the labors and observations of outsiders.
Finally, since an important part of scientific research consists in keeping abreast of current literature, the Academy corporately reviewed recent books. Fontenelle later explained:
It was one of the Academy's occupations, and not the least useful, to examine books that appeared on subjects it had undertaken, especially those which merited particular attention because of the reputation of their Authors. Whether we adopted their views or surveyed their errors, we always profited.
Journals were especially important for keeping abreast of the latest books, inventions, or ideas. Indeed, for a short period the Academy arranged for extracts from the Philosophical Transactions to be translated so that it could stay current with English developments. Huygens valued the Philosophical Transactions and the books his English acquaintances sent, and he followed the Journal des sçavans so intently that his colleagues kept it from him when he was ill, to prevent him from overworking.
The natural philosopher whose books were most thoroughly reviewed in
meetings was Robert Boyle. Duclos reviewed his Certain Physiological Essays during thirteen meetings, and Mariotte read his own translation of the hypothesis on acids and alkalis. The Academy examined portions of Boyle's other works and repeated some of the experiments. Academicians challenged some of Boyle's views. Duclos, for example, criticized Boyle's corpuscularianism, and the permanent secretaries defended their colleague on the grounds that Duclos had "a more chemical cast of mind" than Boyle, perceiving corpuscularianism as a philosophical, not a chemical, explanation. Academicians also developed color indicators for use in their chemical analyses of plants independently of Boyle, whose influence on academic chemistry was negligible.
Despite the availability of journals, important new botanical literature was often neglected, especially by the academicians who studied the natural philosophy of plants. The Marchants had an extensive botanical library, and drafts and notes for the natural history of plants refer to early modern writers, including Ray and Morison. But Grew and Ray were never mentioned in the minutes of meetings before 1699, and only the anatomist Du Verney discussed Malpighi's theories about plants. Before Tournefort's books and articles of the 1690s, it was rare for an academician to analyze contemporary botanical works. This neglect is especially surprising because at the very time (1676) when Dodart expressed bewilderment about classifying plants, Ray's Tables and Morison's Praeludia botanica were available. But Dodart never referred to them, even though Marchant knew Morison personally and Dodart was later to send both Morison and Grew copies of the Mémoires des plantes .
English and French botany developed independently during the latter third of the seventeenth century. Investigations of sycamores and the flow of sap which Ray, Willughby, and others published during the 1660s and 1670s in the Philosophical Transactions seem not to have influenced Jean Marchant's similar studies during the 1680s. Experiments described in the Philosophical Transactions as proving the circulation of sap only rarely resembled those cited by Mariotte and Perrault. Mariotte's and Perrault's studies of germination differ from Grew's report of the germination of white beans and squash, and Grew's terminology was never adopted by French botanists. When La Hire, Charas, and Tournefort considered whether kermes and cochineal were seeds or insects, they never alluded to the evidence Lister had published during the 1670s in the Philosophical Transactions , although they did rely on Plumier's opinion. Perrault and La Hire both stated that there were valves in the vessels of plants — a notion Grew attempted to disprove, as the review of his book in the Philosophical
Transactions pointed out — and neither referred to Grew. The inevitable conclusion is that most academicians who studied plants did not read the Philosophical Transactions . Linguistic ignorance does not explain this neglect, for the Academy could commission translations, and academicians even disregarded the Latin treatises of Malpighi and the French translations of Grew. Their isolation had both positive and negative consequences: although academicians before Tournefort did not benefit from the accomplishments of their botanical contemporaries, they also escaped from their errors and thus did not follow Malpighi and Grew in claiming to have seen air vessels in plants.
In the case of the Academy's botanical research, outside influence was least felt through contemporary literature, visitors to meetings, or hired assistants. More important to both the natural history of plants and the study of medical botany were informal communications, and especially those generated through the personal contacts of individual academicians rather than by the formal agency of the Academy. While few academicians show familiarity with contemporary theoretical treatises about botany, they combed older literature for information about individual plants and were inspired to explore plant physiology by accomplishments, both recent and contemporary, in other disciplines. Finally, although the works of Boyle were frequently debated, chemical studies of botany owed more to continental than to English chemistry.
Where academicians failed to acknowledge outside influence, it may have been due to a habit of mind that preferred to cite experiments and observations rather than literature. Like Thomas Sprat who denounced Samuel Sorbière for imputing to the Royal Society the intention of developing a library, or Oldenburg who criticized the early French societies for discoursing rather than experimenting, academicians emphasized experiment and observation above all. Yet many scientists were avid readers of current literature, and their correspondence summarizes the latest books or requests items for their personal libraries. Academicians owned sizable collections. They also had access to the scientific holdings of other libraries, and they referred to the books of their predecessors. Nevertheless, although their botanical research was in the vanguard of late seventeenth-century efforts, it remained curiously aloof from contemporary influences until Tournefort entered the Academy.
Both the individual and the institutional dynamics of research limited academicians' ties with the larger scientific community. At the individual
level, scientific discourse was sometimes a struggle in which the contestants tried to get as much information as possible from each other at least cost, with the lesser figures taking the greater risks. Savants wanted the acclaim that came from the opportune delivery and convincing proof of a well-formed hypothesis; they wanted to publish their discoveries under their own names when the time was ripe. The wish to make a name for oneself was an important limit on cooperation and on the exchange of information during the seventeenth century. Besides the striving for personal gloire, there were other limitations on cooperation among individual savants, which derived from circumstances, personality, and systems of belief.
The formation of the Academy of Sciences altered the balance of scientific discourse, because the Academy erected an institutional barrier between academician and nonacademician and formalized the relations among savants. It also introduced new elements into the quest for recognition by savants: the Company's own name had to be protected and enhanced, and its prestige augmented that of its correspondents and members. The Academy's ministerial protectors sought renown for the institution and its royal patron, and they expected the Company to gain respect through its publications. For these reasons, the Academy limited cooperation and exchange of information between academicians and outsiders.
Establishment of the Academy also affected the structure of the scientific community. Because the Academy enjoyed advantages of funding, prestige, and power, it could establish itself as an arbiter of acceptable theory and correct data. Into a scientific community consisting — according to Rudwick's criteria — of theory-formulating elite and data-collecting amateurs, the crown injected the Academy of Sciences, an elite institution that arrogated to itself the right to judge what scientific knowledge was admissible. Not all academicians were among the scientific elite themselves, but that did not matter. The Academy's reputation was enhanced by the inclusion of highly regarded savants among its members. But its standing was higher than that of its members collectively, partly because royal patronage enabled it to set itself above the rest of the scientific community.
The Academy's status as an elite institution is clarified by its official contacts with outsiders. The Academy controlled the dissemination of news about its activities, emphasizing the subjects on which it would publish treatises and inviting communications from the public. It tried to keep the ideas of its members secret until their hypotheses were ready for publication, and it treated most nonacademicians as amateurs, collecting from them data that members applied to their own projects. When the
Academy reviewed the publications of outsiders, as in the case of Boyle's chemical treatises, it was critical and preferred the work of its own members. It used ties with other royal establishments, such as the Jardin royal or the pépinerie , to support its own research, and in obtaining local services and goods it kept the Parisian practitioners in a subordinate position.
The result was that the Academy's external ties had a mixed effect on its own research and on the larger scientific community. For the Academy's own botanical research, at least, the personal connections of academicians were more effective stimuli to their research than were the associations generated by the institution. Institutional interchanges about plants were plentiful and had a wide geographical reach; they were best at attracting data. Personal interchanges could obtain data, though not necessarily from so many lands, but were also likely to stimulate new ideas. By conducting their research on plants with so little regard to contemporary work, academicians struck out independently but unsystematically.
The larger scientific community was both animated and discouraged by the Academy. The institution became a clearing-house of information but was an obstacle to royal patronage of other individuals or groups. It undertook projects too vast for any one individual but did not publish sufficiently. It attracted many who sought membership but it admitted few candidates. By restricting the flow of information and using contacts to its own advantage, the Academy deprecated the larger community. But by raising the standard of work in some fields, by training personnel in several disciplines, and by airing the difficulties of solving certain scientific problems and by solving others, the Academy improved the practice of science, both theoretical and applied, in the larger scientific community. The Academy's scholarly accomplishments and connection to the crown gave it the special position academicians claimed as its right. Thus, royal patronage of the Academy had manifold effects on both science and the scientific community.