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From corps to discipline, part one: Charles d'Almeida, Pierre Bertin and French experimental physics, 1840–1880


Academic careers in French science during the mid-nineteenth century were made within the Université de France, an integrated state system of secondary and higher education controlled by a centralized Parisian educational administration. Among the most respected members of the corps universitaire were Charles d'Almeida and Pierre Bertin, two historically obscure physiciens whose significance derives from their substantial contributions to the social organization, teaching and communication of French experimental physics. This two-part comparative biography uses their entwined careers to make a case for the emergence of a discipline of French experimental physics from the corps during the tumultuous politico-cultural transition from the Second Empire to the Third Republic. Of fundamental importance are disciplinary regimes of teaching and inspection within the corps, the foundation of the Société française de physique and the Journal de physique, and the diversification of the traditional pedagogical role of the Ecole normale supérieure, which, from around 1860, began to offer a career pathway for aspiring scientific researchers. Having established in this paper the socio-institutional mechanisms for the stabilization of a distinct field, in part two I characterize the epistemological–methodological aspects of French experimental physics.

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I thank the AHRC for funding the doctoral research on which this paper was based under the grant number 2005/115278; my supervisors, Robert Fox and John Heilbron, for detailed feedback on various drafts; and an anonymous referee for productive comments. Paul Forman deserves credit for reining in some historiographical excesses.

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1 Robert Fox and Georges Weisz, ‘French science during the long nineteenth century’, in Hugh Slotten (ed.), The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 8: Modern Science in National and International Context, forthcoming; Fox, Robert, ‘Science, the university, and the state in nineteenth-century France’, in Geison, Gerald L. (ed.), Professions and the French State, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984, pp. 66145, 72–84; Fox, The Savant and the State: Science and Cultural Politics in Nineteenth Century France, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012, pp. 1828, 94–112; Karady, Victor, ‘Educational qualifications and university careers in science in nineteenth-century France’, in Fox, Robert and Weisz, Georges (eds.), The Organisation of Science and Technology in France 1808–1914, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980, pp. 95124, 104–117; Crosland, Maurice, The Society of Arcueil: A View of French Science at the Time of Napoleon I, London: Heinemann, 1967.

2 The historical inclusiveness of the term physicien makes it difficult to define or translate. Something broader and clumsier than ‘experimental physicist’, like ‘practitioner of physical knowledge’, would be required. It encompassed, for example, physics teachers and makers of physical instruments. A similar point applies to the term opticien. See Charlotte Bigg, ‘Behind the lines: spectroscopic enterprises in early twentieth century Europe’, PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 2001, pp. 9–28.

3 Although the terms of this paper were prompted by those used by Terry Shinn in his study of engineering in modern France, his work does not provide a model. This is because Shinn described the rise of a distinct profession of industrial engineering in the 1880–1914 period independently of a French state engineering corps, which was geared towards the fulfilment of the state's administrative, economic and military requirements. Shinn's work nonetheless exemplifies why the term ‘corps’ is preferable to ‘profession’ for the case of physics considered in this paper, and hence provided me with a crucial historiographic insight. Terry Shinn, ‘From “corps” to “profession”: the emergence and definition of industrial engineering in modern France’, in Fox and Weisz, The Organisation of Science and Technology, op. cit. (1), pp. 183–208. Cf. Fox, Robert, ‘La professionnalisation: un concept pour l'historien de la science française au XIXe siècle’, History and Technology (1987) 4(1), pp. 413422, 420.

4 The present-day French university system retains enough of its Napoleonic origins to ensure the continued use of the terms corps universitaire, corps enseignant, or other variants; during the nineteenth century, however, reference was often made simply to the Université. For the sake of historiographical bookkeeping, ‘corps’ should be regarded an actors’ term, whereas ‘discipline’ is a historians’ category.

5 See, for example, Forman, Paul, ‘On the historical forms of knowledge production and curation: modernity entailed disciplinarity, postmodernity entails antidisciplinarity’, Osiris (2012) 27(1), pp. 5697, 60–62; Stichweh, Rudolf, ‘The sociology of scientific disciplines: on the genesis and stability of the disciplinary structure of modern science’, Science in Context (1992) 5(1), pp. 315; Gingras, Yves, ‘L'institutionalisation de la recherche en milieu universitaire et ses effets’, Sociologie et sociétés (1991) 23(1), pp. 4154, 42–44; Kohler, Robert E., ‘Discipline history’, in Bynum, William F., Browne, E. Janet and Porter, Roy (eds.), Dictionary of the History of Science, London: Macmillan, 1981, p. 104.

6 The sequel is forthcoming in this journal under the title ‘From corps to discipline, part two: the field of French experimental physics circa 1860–1880’.

7 Note, however, that overall this account accords much better with the general pattern of discipline formation identified in Gingras, op. cit. (5), pp. 49–51, who emphasized the importance of ‘the struggle for the legitimate definition and control of the role of the university professor’ (ibid., p. 50) than with the Foucauldian tradition, which treats research schools as the loci of discipline formation. See Timothy Lenoir, Instituting Science: The Cultural Production of Scientific Disciplines, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997, pp. 55, 58, 61, 74 and passim, who views a ‘discipline’ as simply the aggregate product of the competition of research programmes sharing blocks of common practice within a political economy.

8 Except where it would obviously be pedantic, I have resisted the temptation to translate terms with an obvious English counterpart in order to emphasize the uniqueness of the French institutional context. Hence the choices of académie, ‘rector’, etc.

9 The information that follows on the structure of French higher education and the qualifications it administered derives from Fox and Weisz, ‘French science during the long nineteenth century’, op. cit. (1); Fox, The Savant and the State, op. cit. (1), pp. 285–290; Robert Fox and Georges Weisz, ‘The institutional basis of French science in the nineteenth century’, in Fox and Weisz, The Organisation of Science and Technology in France, op. cit. (1), pp. 1–28, 1–8; Crosland, Maurice, ‘Presidential address: history of science in a national context’, BJHS (1977) 10, pp. 95113, 100–108; Weisz, George, The Emergence of Modern Universities in France, 1863–1914, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983, pp. 1835; Shinn, Terry, ‘The French science faculté system, 1808–1914: institutional change and research potential in mathematics and the physical sciences’, Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences (1979) 10, pp. 271332, 274–282 ff.; and, in comparison with Germany, Gilpin, Robert, France in the Age of the Scientific State, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968, Chapter 4, ‘The heritage of the Napoleonic system’, pp. 77–123, 85–105.

10 Boarding was common among middle-class families who could afford it. See Anderson, R.D., Education in France 1848–1870, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975, pp. 2021.

11 On the social background of normaliens and polytechniciens see Craig Zwerling, ‘The emergence of the Ecole normale supérieure as a centre of scientific education in the nineteenth century’, in Fox and Weisz, The Organisation of Science and Technology in France 1808–1914, op. cit. (1), pp. 31–60, 50–58; and, for the latter, see especially Shinn, op. cit. (3), pp. 187–190. The Ecole normale tended to appeal to families from the petite bourgeoisie who valued cultural attainments and social advancement, although the intake of both schools was diverse.

12 Berthelot, Daniel, ‘Gabriel Lippmann: la vie d'un savant’, Revue des deux mondes (1922) 10, pp. 1946, 21.

13 ‘Paris, le 21 9bre [November] 1844’, Dossier Joseph-Charles d'Almeida, Archives nationales françaises (hereafter AN), F/17/22715/B; Almeida Joseph Charles d’’, in Havelange, Isabelle, Huguet, François and Lebedeff, Bernadette, Les inspecteurs généraux de l'instruction publique: Dictionnaire biographique 1802–1914. Etabli sous la direction de Guy Caplat, Paris: Institut national de recherche pédagogique/Editions du CNRS, 1986, pp. 126127; Bouty, Edmond, ‘Notice sur la vie et les travaux de J.-Ch. d'Almeida’, Journal de physique théorique et appliqué (1880) 9, pp. 425–34, 425. Berthelot, op. cit. (12), p. 21, identified d'Almeida's father as a duke.

14 AN, F/17/22715/B (‘Paris, le 21 9bre 1844’); Havelange, Huguet and Lebedeff, op. cit. (13). As a tenured lycée professor of the highest rank, d'Almeida would later earn 7,500 francs per year. See AN, AJ/16/201 (‘Lycée Corneille, Année classique 1871–1872’).

15 ‘Blanchet, Pierre Henry’, in Havelange, Huguet and Lebedeff, op. cit. (13), pp. 171–172.

16 AN, F/17/22715/B (10 ff. dated between 21 November 1844 and 14 February 1845); Règlement général concernant les maître d’études’, Bulletin universitaire, contentant les ordonnances, règlements et arrêtés relatifs à l'instruction publique (1847) 16(95), pp. 233–44; Gerbod, Paul, La vie quotidienne das les lycées et collèges au XIXe siècle, Paris: Hachette, 1968, pp. 3436. Those embarking on careers in the Université could be exempted from military service with a written promise of at least ten years’ service. See Instruction pour l'exécution du règlement général concernant les maître d’études’, Bulletin universitaire, contentant les ordonnances, règlements et arrêtés relatifs à l'instruction publique (1847) 16(96), pp. 281286, 282–283. D'Almeida's student, the physicien Gabriel Lippmann, made this pledge in 1866. See Dossier Gabriel Lippmann, AN, F/17/21188, 5r.

17 On the crackdown under the Second Empire on unauthorized absences, and ‘health reasons’ as an excuse, see Gerbod, op. cit. (16), pp. 117–119.

18 AN, F/17/22715/B (letters dated 27 and 29 December 1846; arrêté of 18 January 1847; minute of 20 January 1847; ‘Etat des services’, 19 February 1866). The (several) état or désignation des services date all the milestones of d'Almeida's career.

19 Where rank in the agrégation is not provided by biographers, as in d'Almeida's case, it can be difficult to determine. See the resource provided by the Laboratoire de recherche historique Rhône-Alpes (LARHRA) at I have used Bulletin universitaire, contenant les décrets, règlements et arrêtés relatifs à l'instruction publique (1848) 17(105), p. 287.

20 AN, F/17/22715/B (letter from d'Almeida beginning ‘Dans l'intention’). The Lycée d'Alger, he informed the ministry, was his ‘second preference’.

21 AN, F/17/22715/B (‘Lycée d'Alger. Inspection gle, 1850’).

22 AN, F/17/22715/B (7 ff., headed ‘Lycée d'Alger’).

23 AN, F/17/22715/B (letter from d'Almeida, 14 August 1851). On Balard's appointment see Alan Rocke, Nationalizing Science: Adolphe Wurtz and the Battle for French Chemistry, Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 2001, pp. 137–139.

24 Anderson, op. cit. (10), pp. 39–57. On the functions, authority and changing political favour of the Council of Public Instruction see Fox, The Savant and the State, op. cit. (1), pp. 96–98; and Weisz, op. cit. (9), pp. 29–35, but note that Weisz dates the loss of corporate control over the council to 1845.

25 Bouty, op. cit. (13), p. 434; ‘Allocutions prononcées sur la tombe de M.J.-Ch. d'Almeida: Discours de M. de Gasté’, Bulletin de la Société française de physique, 1880, pp. 200–201, 201. On de Gasté see A. Bitard, Dictionnaire général de biographie contemporaine (1878), retrieved from the World Biographical Information System at

26 Louis Pasteur, ‘Pierre Augustin Bertin-Mourot’, Réunion générale annuelle de l'Association des anciens élèves de l'Ecole normale supérieure (1885) 39, pp. 38–41, 39. The shorthand ‘EN’ followed by a year indicates the year of matriculation at the Ecole normale supérieure. The source is ‘Liste des élèves de l'Ecole normale par promotions depuis 1810’, in Le centenaire de l'Ecole normale 1795–1895, Paris: Hachette et Co., 1895, pp. 669–690.

27 Pasteur, op. cit. (26).

28 Collèges communaux taught the same curricula as the lycées but were funded differently, the former centrally by the state and the latter by local municipalities. Their teachers were either régent or maître d’études, with régent a higher grade directly below principal in the administrative hierarchy. See Gerbod, op. cit. (16), pp. 12–13, 24–36.

29 Pasteur, op. cit. (26), pp. 38–39.

30 Dossier Pierre Augustin Bertin-Mourot, AN, F/17/20159, #93.

31 AN, F/17/20159 (#95–66, minute and arrêté, both of 16 February 1846); Pasteur, op. cit. (26), p. 39; Zwerling, op. cit. (11), p. 45; Smith, Robert, The Ecole normale supérieure and the Third Republic, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982, pp. 1617. For a list of agrégé-préparateurs for the 1846–1895 period see Le centenaire de l'Ecole normale, op. cit. (26), pp. 665–666. On the experience of being an agrégé-préparateur see G. Koenigs, ‘L'institution des agrégé-préparateurs’, in ibid., pp. 454–457.

32 Dörries, Matthias, ‘Easy transit: crossing boundaries between physics and chemistry in mid-nineteenth century France’, in Agar, Jon and Smith, Crosbie (eds.), Making Space for Science: Territorial Themes in the Shaping of Knowledge, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998, pp. 246262, esp. 254–261; Fox, Robert, The Caloric Theory of Gases: From Lavoisier to Regnault, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971, pp. 281313. For evaluations of Regnault's experimental methods from the perspective of integrated HPS see Chang, Hasok, Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 7484, 96–102; and Dörries, Matthias, ‘Vicious circles, or, the pitfalls of experimental virtuosity’, in Heidelberger, Michael and Steinle, Friedrich (eds.), Experimental Essays – Versuche zum Experiment, Baden-Baden: NOMOS, 1998, pp. 123140. For their legacy in French experimental physics see the sequel to this paper.

33 I worry that historians have overestimated Regnault's influence in this regard. Dörries, ‘Vicious circles’, op. cit. (32), p. 128, claims that Regnault's ‘laboratory at the Collège de France became an obligatory destination for many foreign physicists,’ and gives names in Dörries, ‘Easy transit’, op. cit. (32), p. 257. Regnault's biographer and mentor, the great chemist Jean-Baptiste Dumas, claimed similarly that Regnault was ‘surrounded’ by young recruits from France and abroad, but for a thirty-year career could only name a handful. Of the Frenchmen, apart from Bertin only Jules Jamin went on to a distinguished career in physics. Dumas, Jean-Baptiste, ‘Eloge historique de Henri-Victor Regnault, membre de l'Académie des sciences de l'Institut de France’, Mémoires de l'Académie des sciences de l'Institut de France (1883) 42, pp. 3772. Dumas's list included William Thomson, who passed through Paris in the mid-1840s before taking up the Glasgow professorship in natural philosophy. He first met Regnault face to face through Jean-Baptiste Biot, which suggests that access was arranged informally through contacts. See Smith, Crosbie and Wise, Norton, Energy and Empire: A Biographical Study of Lord Kelvin, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 107108.

34 Pasteur, op. cit. (26), p. 40; Bertin dit Bertin-Mourot (Pierre-Augustin)’, in Larousse grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle, Tome dix-septième, deuxième supplément, Paris: Administration du Grand dictionnaire universel, 1890, p. 546.

35 AN, F/17/20159 (letter from Bertin, 26 August 1847).

36 AN, F/17/20159, #91–92.

37 AN, F/17/20159 (#30, letter from P. Dubois, 10 March 1848; minute of 15 March 1848). A suppléant received half the salary of the main postholder, who continued to receive the other half. As Blanchet's case illustrates, suppléances furthered the practice of cumul. In some cases, they could run on indefinitely. Of the last twenty or so years of his occupancy of the chair of phyisque générale et mathématique at the Collège de France, Joseph Bertrand was supplée by Maurice Lévy for at least six years and by Marcel Deprez for a decade. See successive volumes from 1879 to 1900 of the Annuaire du Ministère de l'instruction publique et des beaux-arts, France: Ministère de l'instruction publique.

38 AN, F/17/20159, #85–90. Bertin gained the chair in preference to Pasteur, who at that time was suppléant to the chair of chemistry. It was common to spend a probationary period of up to one year as chargé de cours prior to the official appointment to chair professor. Cf. the early career of Jean-Joseph-Benoit Abria (EN 1831), who held the post of professor of physics and then dean of the faculté of sciences at Bordeaux between 1838 and 1886, described briefly by Fox, The Savant and the State, op. cit. (1), p. 101.

39 AN, F/17/20159, #35–54, #79–81; Marcel Brillouin, ‘Bertin Mourot: Maître de conférences de physique’, in Le centenaire de l'Ecole normale, op. cit. (26), pp. 400–406, 402. On the provincial facultés see Fox, The Savant and the State, op. cit. (1), pp. 23–28, 101–103; Weisz, op. cit. (9), pp. 40–45; Shinn, op. cit. (9), esp. pp. 277–283, 291–295. Humanities professors complained about the burden of examination duties, but it is unclear whether their colleagues in the sciences felt the same way. The number of science students examined varied widely between the académies.

40 Fox, The Savant and the State, op. cit. (1), pp. 94–126, quotation at 94; Fox, ‘Science, the university, and the state’, op. cit. (1), pp. 85–90; Fox and Weisz, ‘French science during the long nineteenth century’, op. cit. (1); Weisz, op. cit. (9), pp. 34–54. Shinn, op. cit. (9), pp. 291–299, paints a more draconian picture in which all activities beyond the duties of facultés (except the Sorbonne) to secondary education were discouraged.

41 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York: Vintage Books, 1979, discusses prison architecture as a paradigm of inspection or surveillance on pp. 201–209. Foucault also mentions inspections or the act of inspection involved in medical examinations, in implementing factory regulations and in the army. With respect to schools, in that work he thinks only of the disciplining of pupils by teachers, however, and not of the disciplining of the teachers themselves. See e.g. pp. 174, 185–187.

42 Warwick, Andrew and Kaiser, David, ‘Conclusion’, in Kaiser, David (ed.), Pedagogy and the Practice of Science: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 2005, pp. 393409, esp. 397–400; Golinski, Jan, Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998, pp. 6978. See also Goldstein, Jan, ‘Foucault among the sociologists: the “disciplines” and the history of the professions’, History and Theory (1984) 23(2), pp. 170192, 179–184.

43 Richard Seabold, ‘Normalien alumni in the facultés and lycées of France from 1871 to 1910, promotions 1831 to 1869’, unpublished DPhil thesis, University of California, Los Angeles, 1970. Seabold's thesis consists essentially of an analysis of a huge amount of data regarding normalien careers, achievements and social, political and religious convictions. The Parisian facultés, he claims, were not subject to inspection. The data on normalien appointments to the general inspectorate is derived from Havelange, Huguet and Lebedeff, op. cit. (13). See the tables on pp. 58–59 and 62–63. The education background of general inspectors of higher education for the same period was more diverse: see the tables on pp. 48–50. For secondary and higher inspection under the Second Empire and Third Republic see pp. 40–66.

44 Seabold, op. cit. (43), pp. 40–41, 119–133. Seabold adds two further assessment criteria: personal habits and appearance in the classroom, and political conformity and social standing, which extended to a professor's wife's family. These criteria were not manifested overtly in the text of d'Almeida and Bertin's reports. See also Fox, The Savant and the State, op. cit. (1), pp. 102–103.

45 Bouty, op. cit. (13).

46 The rest of this section is based mainly around inspection reports on d'Almeida during the Second Empire. The Dossier Joseph-Charles d'Almeida, AN, AJ/16/201, contains ten reports authored by the principal of the Lycée Napoléon between 1860 and 1870. Their seven counterparts for the 1853–1860 period are located in AN, F/17/22715, which also contains all the extant reports authored by the inspectorate. The run of those generated within the Paris Académie appears to be complete, although there are only two additional reports obviously written by general inspectors. Where necessary I refer to specific reports below.

47 AN, F/17/22715 (‘Année classique 1856–185’; letter from d'Almeida, 3 September 1856); ‘Roustan Roch’, in Havelange, Huguet and Lebedeff, op. cit. (13), 600–601.

48 On the concours général see Anderson, op. cit. (10), p. 25.

49 ‘Allocutions prononcées’, op. cit. (25), p. 200.

50 Simon, Josep, Communicating Physics: The Production, Circulation and Appropriation of Ganot's Textbooks in France and England, 1851–1887, London: Pickering and Chatto, 2011, pp. 2629, 33–40.

51 d'Almeida, Joseph-Charles and Boutan, Augustin, Cours élémentaire de physique, précédé de notions de méchanique et suivi des problèmes, 2nd edn, vol. 2, Paris: Dunod, 1863.

52 Havelange, Huguet and Lebedeff, op. cit. (13), pp. 188–190.

53 See ‘Louis Pasteur and the rise of science at the Ecole normale’ (below) and especially the references in note 64.

54 AN, AJ/16/201 (‘Renseignements confidentiels’, signed 4 March 1867 by Petit, recto).

55 AN, AJ/16/201 (‘1866, M. Bertrand’); d'Almeida, Joseph-Charles and Boutan, Augustin, Cours élémentaire de physique, suivi des problèmes, 3rd edn, vol. 2, Paris: Dunod, 1867, pp. 114118 (§§981–984).

56 AN, AJ/16/201 (‘Renseignements confidentiels’, signed 21 March 1864 by Verdet, verso).

57 AN, AJ/16/201 (‘Renseignements confidentiels’, signed 16 March 1870 by Petit, verso). Petit (1810–1880), a former rector of the Académie de l'Indre, was not officially part of the inspectorate but was called upon to carry out specific projects, particularly between 1867 and 1870. Possibly Verdet acted in a similar capacity. Havelange, Huguet and Lebedeff, op. cit. (13), pp. 662–664, 142–143 (for Balard); C. Fierville, Archives des lycées (1894), retrieved online from the World Biographical Information System (WBIS).

58 Tobin, William, The Life and Science of Léon Foucault: The Man Who Proved the Earth Rotates, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Until an unspecified falling out, Foucault often collaborated with Hippolyte Fizeau (1819–1896), another former medic who went on to a distinguished career in physics.

59 Quoted in Tobin, William, ‘Toothed wheels and rotating mirrors: Parisian astronomy and mid-nineteenth century experimental measurements of the speed of light’, Vistas in Astronomy (1993) 36, pp. 253294, 284.

60 Atten, Michel, ‘La reine mathématique et sa petite soeur’, in Belhoste, Bruno, Gispert, Hélène and Hulin, Nicole (eds.), Les sciences au lycée: Un siècle de réformes des mathématiques et de la physique en France et à l’étranger (Paris: Vuibert-INRP, 1996), pp. 4554; Atten, La physique en souffrance, 1850–1914’, in Belhoste, Bruno, Dalmedico, Amy Dahan and Picon, Antoine (eds.), La formation polytechnicienne: 1794–1994, Paris: Dunod, 1994, pp. 217244; Smith and Wise, op. cit. (33), pp. 149–168; Crosland, Maurice and Smith, Crosbie, ‘The transmission of physics from France to Britain: 1800–1840’, Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences (1978) 9, pp. 161. For a general summary see Morus, Iwan Rhys, When Physics Became King, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005, pp. 2532.

61 The description of these changes is drawn mainly from Zwerling, op. cit. (11), pp. 35–50.

62 Zwerling, op. cit. (11), p. 43 (Table 3).

63 Karady, op. cit. (1), pp. 117–123. Karady claims that normaliens avoided experimental and observational science, but this is not true of physics. For the ministerial initiatives leading up to these changes see also Paul Dupuy, ‘Notice historique’, in L'Ecole normale (1810–1883): Notice Historique, liste des élèves par promotions, travaux littéraires et scientifiques, Paris: Léopold Cerf, 1884, pp. 3–79, 66–70.

64 On Duruy, Wurtz's reports, the reform movement and the creation of the EPHE see Fox, The Savant and the State, op. cit. (1), pp. 126–137; Fox and Weisz, ‘French science during the long nineteentyh century’, op. cit. (1), pp. 13–17; Shinn, op. cit. (9), pp. 299–302; Weisz, op. cit. (9), pp. 55–81; Rocke, op. cit. (23), pp. 277–299; and Mary Jo Nye, Science in the Provinces: Scientific Communities and Provincial Leadership in France, 1860–1930, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1986, pp. 14–17. See also Fox, ‘Science, the university, and the state’, op. cit. (1), pp. 92–102, but note that Fox has revised his views on the success of Duruy's ministry in his most recent publications.

65 Adolphe Wurtz, ‘Lettre à son exc. M. le ministre de l'instruction publique’, in Les hautes études pratiques dans les universités allemandes: Rapport présenté à son exc. M. le ministre de l'instruction publique, Paris: Imprimerie impériale, 1872, pp. 5–14, 13.

66 Alglave, Emile, ‘Paris, le 1er Juillet 1871’, La revue scientifique de la France et de l’étranger (1871) 1(1), p. 1; Pasteur, Louis, ‘La science en France: Pourquoi la France n'a pas trouvé d'hommes supérieures au moment du péril’, La revue scientifique de la France et de l’étranger (1871) 1(4), pp. 7377, 75; de Quatrefages, Armand, ‘La science et la patrie’, La revue scientifique de la France et de l’étranger (1872) 2(11), pp. 242244, 243. On the various meanings of ‘science’ in this context see Fox and Weisz, ‘French science during the long nineteenth century’, op. cit. (1); and Weisz, op. cit. (9), pp. 61–62, 76–81, 115–117 for republican scientism. For a useful but idiosyncratic discussion of French scientists’ anxieties about German science during the nineteenth century and the rhetorical purposes of their claims see Paul, Harry W., The Sorcerer's Apprentice: The French Scientists’ Image of German Science 1840–1919, Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1972, pp. 514.

67 Most normaliens entering politics during the Third Republic graduated from the lettres section. Their political ascent was not quite so smooth as I have implied here. The new minister of public instruction Jules Simon (EN 1833) surrounded himself with an unofficial normalien clique with whom, every Saturday, he would work on either projected reforms or reforms under way, but the monarchists succeeded in ousting him, along with other prominent republicans, from government in 1873. Normaliens were restored to positions of influence by Jules Ferry, minister of public instruction and fine arts for 1879–1881 and 1883–1885, and subsequently survived his political demise. Fox, The Savant and the State, op. cit. (1), pp. 227–259; Weisz, op. cit. (9), pp. 90–133; Shinn, op. cit. (9), pp. 299–315; Smith, op. cit. (31), pp. 56–58, 104 ff., 132–137, 145–146. For the impact of reforms and policies on provincial facultés with special reference to applied science see Nye, op. cit. (64), pp. 17–32.

68 Maurice Crosland discusses the origins, functions and career roles of other, similar, junior scientific positions, and also briefly the position of agrégé-préparateur, in ‘The development of a professional career in science in France’, Minerva (1975) 13(1), pp. 38–57, 48–56.

69 Warwick, Andrew, Masters of Theory: Cambridge and the Rise of Mathematical Physics, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003, pp. 8489, 99–113 (Hopkins), 227–285 (Routh), quotation at 279.

70 AN, F/17/20159, #95–96.

71 AN, F/17/20159, #51 and #43.

72 AN, F/17/20159, #62. Of course, Fustel de Coulanges did not mention Bertin's disinterest in administration and failure to take responsibility for discipline: his predecessor, Francisque Bouillier (1867–1871), complained that Bertin ‘has no idea what's going on and doesn't try to find out’. AN, F/17/20159 (‘Renseignements confidentiels, 2 May 1869’, see also ‘Notice individuelle, 12 May 1868’).

73 AN, F/17/20159, #44 and #37.

74 AN, F/17/20159, #19, #7?, #74–75, ‘Strasbourg le 16 Aout 1886’.

75 Frankel, Eugene, ‘Verdet, Marcel Émile’, in Gillispie, Charles Coulston (ed.) Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 13, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976, pp. 614615; Lévistal, A., ‘Notice sur M. E. Verdet, maître de conférences à L'Ecole normale supérieure’, Annales scientifiques de l'Ecole normale supérieure (1866) 3, pp. 343351; Françoise Huguet et Boris Noguès, ‘Les professeurs des facultés des lettres et des sciences en France au XIXe siècle (1808–1880)’, June 2011, at

76 Picard, Emile, ‘La vie et l'oeuvre de Gabriel Lippmann’, Mémoires de l'Académie des sciences de l'Institut de France (1931) 60, pp. ixxix, iii; AN, AJ/61/19, #26–45. The source is a registry of student marks; many of the Ecole normale's archival records for this period are no longer extant.

77 Brillouin, op. cit. (39), p. 405. On the nature of conférences see Smith, op. cit. (31), p. 10.

78 Kathryn Olesko, ‘The foundations of a canon: Kohlrausch's practical physics’, in Kaiser, op. cit. (42), pp. 323–356; Olesko, Physics as a Calling: Discipline and Practice in the Königsberg Seminar for Physics, Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1991.

79 AN, AJ/61/19, #38. Marks awarded by Jules Violle (agrégé-préparateur 1867–1871) appear in the register for the second term in the 1869–1870 academic year.

80 Olesko, Physics as a Calling, op. cit. (78), pp. 317–365; and especially Olesko, Kathryn, ‘Physics instruction in Prussian secondary schools before 1859’, Osiris (1989) 5, pp. 94120. In Britain, as Gooday, Graeme, ‘Precision measurement and the genesis of physics teaching laboratories in Victorian Britain’, BJHS (1990) 23(1), pp. 2551, has described, the training of physics teachers in techniques of precision measurement began in earnest in the early 1870s. Nonetheless, a competing qualitative mode of physics pedagogy aimed at physics students and prospective physics teachers alike persisted until at least the 1880s. See Daniel Jon Mitchell, ‘The dynamics of the masses: absolute measurement and elementary physics pedagogy in Victorian Britain 1863–1879’, History of Science, forthcoming.

81 Brillouin, op. cit. (39), pp. 402–403.

82 Brillouin, op. cit. (39), p. 405. In emphasizing the lectures at the Collège de France of Mascart, his former doctoral supervisor and also his father-in-law, Brillouin may have wished to draw attention to their freer scientific content, which, unlike in the facultés, was not bound by curricular constraints.

83 Fox, The Savant and the State, op. cit. (1), pp. 134–135; ‘Laboratoire d’enseignement de de physique’, in Ecole pratique des hautes études: Rapports des directeurs de laboratoire et de conférences, 1868–1877, Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1879, pp. 19–23, 19–21; Papillon, Fernand, ‘L'Ecole pratique des hautes études’, La revue scientifique de la France et de l’étranger: Revue des cours scientifiques, 2nd series (July–December 1872) 10, pp. 356359, 357.

84 AN, AJ/61/69, #63.

85 Marcel Brillouin, ‘Les débuts de la Société française de physique’, in Le livre du cinquantenaire de la Société française de physique, Paris: Editions de la Revue d'optique théorique et instrumentale, 1925, pp. 5–18, 7.

86 Martha Cecilia Bustamante, André Martinez and Terry Shinn, ‘Naissance et premiers pas de la SFP: 1873–1905’, Bulletin de la Société française de physique, May 2005, pp. 15–19, 15–16, have suggested that Bertin had an international scientific outlook, but Bertin was heavily critical of German physics and took a parochial view of foreign research (see this paper's sequel). The principal of the Ecole normale, Désiré Nisard (1850–1860), strongly opposed the incursion of foreign, and especially German, influences into French intellectual life. See Fox, The Savant and the State, op. cit. (1), pp. 118, 120–122, 126.

87 Ernest Lebon, Gabriel Lippmann: Biographie, bibliographie analytique des écrits, Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1911, p. 2. On Lippmann see Daniel Jon Mitchell, ‘Gabriel Lippmann's approach to late-nineteenth century French physics’, unpublished DPhil thesis, University of Oxford, 2010, esp. Chapters 1 and 2.

88 Brillouin, op. cit. (39), p. 405.

89 Brillouin, op. cit. (85), pp. 16–18.

90 Louis Pasteur, quoted in ‘Bertin dit Bertin-Mourot’, op. cit. (34).

91 ‘Fonctionnaires et élèves de l'Ecole normale’, in Le centenaire de l'Ecole normale, op. cit. (26), pp. 659–694, 666, 682–683, 685. Bichat was Bertin's son-in-law. See Huguet and Noguès, op. cit. (75).

92 D'Almeida's former pupils apparently also sought him out for advice well after they had left the Lycée Napoléon, so he had face-to-face opportunities to encourage them to publish in the journal. ‘Allocutions prononcées sur la tombe de M. J.-Ch. d'Almeida: Discours de M. Gaston Bonnier’, Bulletin des séances de la Société française de physique, 1880, pp. 201–203.

93 Pasteur, op. cit. (26), pp. 40–41; Brillouin, op. cit. (39), p. 406; AN, F/17/20159, #46, #48, #50. In 1858 the rector of the Académie de Strasbourg reported that Bertin ‘is resigned to no further [career] advancement. His ambition would be fully satisfied if he received the average salary of faculté professors within the empire’. See AN, F/17/20159, #51.

94 Comptes rendus hebdomadaires de l'Académie des sciences (1878) 87, pp. 835, 10001001, 1024; Lacroix, A., ‘Notice sur A. Damour’, Bulletin de la Société française de minéralogie (1905) 28, pp. 7784, 79. Extracts from Fizeau's report are quoted in Pasteur, op. cit. (26), p. 40.

95 Pasteur, op. cit. (26), p. 41.

96 AN, F/17/20159 (‘Notice individuelle’, dated 12 May 1868).

97 Brillouin, op. cit. (39), p. 401; Pasteur, op. cit. (26), p. 41.

98 L. Bourgine, ‘L’école en 1870–1871’, in Le livre du cinquantenaire, op. cit. (85), pp. 520–534, 529–530.

99 Brillouin, op. cit. (85), pp. 8–9; Fox, The Savant and the State, op. cit. (1), p. 237.

100 Bulletin des séances de la Société française de physique, 1883, p. 87. Lissajous, probably a more impartial commentator than Brillouin, suggested that Bertin had offered to host a group of physiciens who wished to meet regularly. See Antoine-Jules Lissajous, ‘Rapport de M. Lissajous’, Bulletin des séances de la Société française de physique, 1873, pp. 5–6.

101 AN, F/17/20159, #59–64.

102 AN, F/17/22715 (letter from d'Almeida, ‘Washington, le 10 mars 1863’); Bouty, op. cit. (13), pp. 425–427, 434. These cosmopolitan tendencies appear to have compensated for an otherwise independent, solitary existence. A reliable and devoted friend, according to Bouty, he nonetheless remained highly reserved towards even those closest to him, whom he chose self-consciously.

103 F. Moigno, ‘La poste photographique’, L'univers, 12 November 1870, recto; Bouty, op. cit. (13), pp. 427–428; AN, F/17/22715/B (‘Lycée Corneille, M. d'Almeida, 21 décembre 1870’). For the role of science, technology and scientists in the Franco-Prussian War, including the commission chaired by Berthelot, see Maurice Crosland, ‘Science and the Franco-Prussian War’, Social Studies of Science (1976) 6, pp. 185–214, esp. 203–205.

104 AN, AJ/16/201 (‘M. D'Almeïda. Services exceptionnels pendant la guerre. Paris, le 26 février 1872’; ‘Secrétariat general. Légion d'Honneur. Février 1872’; ‘Lycée Corneille. Année classique 1871–1872’).

105 AN, AJ/16/201 (‘Secrétariat général. Paris, le 11 mars 1872’).

106 AN, F/17/22715/B (‘Lycée Henri IV. Année classique 1872–1873).

107 AN, F/17/22715/B (‘Lycée Henri IV. Année classique’, from 1872–1873 to 1875–1876).

108 AN, AJ/16/201 (15 ff. ‘Congé d'inactivité’; ‘Traitement de congé’); F/17/22725/B (4 ff., including ‘Letter from Ch. d'Almeida, 23 August 1876’. On his appointment to the inspectorate see ‘Sénat. Versailles, le 5 janvier 1879’; ‘Décret. 18 janvier 1879’).

109 Brillouin, op. cit. (85), p. 8.

110 Andrés Martínez Matiz, ‘Les origines et les premieres années de la Société française de physique (1873–1905)’, Mémoire de DEA, Université Paris 7, 2004, pp. 54–58, has explained neatly how this manifested itself in Bertin's introduction to his first review, which was written in the first person, and d'Almeida's repeated use of the third person plural to ascribe agency to his collaborators.

111 d'Almeida, Joseph-Charles, [untitled], Journal de physique theorique et applique (1872) 1, pp. 56. See also Fox, The Savant and the State, op. cit. (1), pp. 237–238.

112 D'Almeida, op. cit. (111), p. 5.

113 ‘Allocutions prononcées sur la tombe de M. J.-Ch. d'Almeida: Discours de M. Mascart’, Bulletin des séances la Société française de physique, 1880, pp. 198–199; Bouty, op. cit. (13), pp. 428–431; Fox, ‘Science, the university, and the state’, op. cit. (1), pp. 106–107. The society's catalogue, and a list of instruments received between 1877 and 1880, are printed on pp. 205–215 of the Bulletin des séances de la Société française de physique, 1880.

114 The statutes are printed in the Bulletin des séances de la Société française de physique, 1873, pp. 1–4.

115 Bulletin des séances, op. cit. (114), pp. 1–4.

116 Bouty, op. cit. (13), p. 431; Robert Fox, ‘The savant confronts his peers: scientific societies in France, 1815–1914’, in Fox and Weisz, the Organisation of Science and Technology in France, op. cit. (1), pp. 241–282, 278–279; Bustamante, Martinez and Shinn, op. cit. (86). Provincial physiciens need not have reoriented themselves towards a national, disciplinary community at the expense of local or regional concerns. See Nye, op. cit. (64).

117 Matiz, op. cit. (110); Brillouin, op. cit. (85); Lissajous, op. cit. (100).

118 On Lissajous see F.J. Fetis, Biographie universelle des musiciens, etc, 2nd edn (8 vols). Supplément et complement (2 vols.), 1881–1889, retrieved from WBIS (online).

119 ‘Causerie scientifique’, Le Temps, 19 March 1872, p. 1. The society distributed copies of a bulletin, the Séances de la Société française de physique, to members as part of their annual subscription of twenty francs. Printed by Gauthier-Villars, both publications shared the same font and format, which halved the cost. On the relationship between the bulletin and the Journal de physique see Brillouin, op. cit. (85), pp. 12–13.

120 ‘Allocution de M. Jamin’, Bulletin des séances de la Société française de physique, 1875, pp. 135–136, 136.

121 It also provides a means of reconciling this paper's main thesis with the standard literature that traces the origins of the physics ‘discipline’ to the early nineteenth century. For a clear synthesis see Hong, Sungook and Buchwald, Jed Z., ‘Physics’, in Cahan, David (ed.), From Natural Philosophy to the Sciences: Writing the History of Nineteenth-Century Science, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003, pp. 163195, esp. 166–174. This paper's sequel contains further references and historiographical discussion.

I thank the AHRC for funding the doctoral research on which this paper was based under the grant number 2005/115278; my supervisors, Robert Fox and John Heilbron, for detailed feedback on various drafts; and an anonymous referee for productive comments. Paul Forman deserves credit for reining in some historiographical excesses.

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