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Onwards facing backwards: the rhetoric of science in nineteenth-century Greece


The aim of this paper is to show how the Greek men of science negotiated a role for their enterprise within the Greek public sphere, from the institution of the modern Greek state in the early 1830s to the first decades of the twentieth century. By focusing on instances where they appeared in public in their official capacity as scientific experts, I describe the rhetorical schemata and the narrative strategies with which Greek science experts engaged the discourses prevalent in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Greece. In the end, my goal is to show how they were neither zealots of modernization nor neutral actors struggling in isolated wastelands. Rather, they appear as energetic agents who used scientific expertise, national ideals and their privileged cultural positions to construct a rhetoric that would further all three. They engaged eagerly and consistently with emerging political views, scientific subjects and cultural and political events, without presenting themselves, or being seen, as doing anything qualitatively different from their peers abroad. Greek scientists cross-contextualized the scientific enterprise, situating it in the space in which they were active.

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The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
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