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 The surviving correspondence, published and unpublished, of savants suggests how important were such exchanges of information and opinion and how wide was the geographical reach of seventeenth-century scholarly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.