'The sciences are never at war?': The scientific Republic of Letters in the era of the French Revolution, 1789-1815

by Lipkowitz, Elise, Ph.D., NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, 2009, 285 pages; 3386910


What did it mean to portray science as a transnational, apolitical endeavor in an era of nationalism and total war? How did the French and British scientific communities adapt to the tension between science's professed transnational aspirations and its increasingly systematic practice in national contexts during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars? Prompted by the frequently-invoked claim by eighteenth-century French and British savants that "the sciences are never at war," this dissertation investigates the impact of war, nationalism, and national interest on knowledge exchange and the social practices and values of late eighteenth-century European scientific practitioners. Taking the scientific Republic of Letters as its object of inquiry, it focuses on the material aspects of transnational scientific exchange: the movement of correspondence, scientific knowledge, scientific objects, and savants themselves. It argues that wartime politics and the increasingly systematic use of science in support French and British national interests created a rupture in the practices and activities of the European scientific Republic of Letters, a disjuncture that paved the way for the emergence of very different regimes of transnational science in the nineteenth century.

AdviserKenneth L. Alder
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsEuropean history; Science history
Publication Number3386910

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