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The ingénieur savant, 1800–1830 A Neglected Figure in the History of French Mathematics and Science

  • I. Grattan-Guinness (a1)
Abstract
The Argument

This paper deals with the achievements of those French mathematicians active in the period 1800–1830 who oriented their work specifically around the needs of engineering and technology. In addition to a review of their achievements, the principal organizations and institutions are noted, as is their importance as sources of employment and influence.

The argument is centered on the word ‘neglected“ in the title. A case is made that a mass of work was produced which made considerable impact at the time but has been overlooked or even completely ignored by historians since. The paper begins with a general discussion of the notion of context, both for the historical figures and for their supposed historians, and several examples of historical distortion are given.

Regarding France itself, we see a professional and research profile rather different from that in other countries. The question of national differences in the organization and prosecution of science is thereby sharply exposed.

The Argument

This paper deals with the achievements of those French mathematicians active in the period 1800–1830 who oriented their work specifically around the needs of engineering and technology. In addition to a review of their achievements, the principal organizations and institutions are noted, as is their importance as sources of employment and influence.

The argument is centered on the word ‘neglected“ in the title. A case is made that a mass of work was produced which made considerable impact at the time but has been overlooked or even completely ignored by historians since. The paper begins with a general discussion of the notion of context, both for the historical figures and for their supposed historians, and several examples of historical distortion are given.

Regarding France itself, we see a professional and research profile rather different from that in other countries. The question of national differences in the organization and prosecution of science is thereby sharply exposed.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

J. Ben-David 1970. “The Rise and Decline of France as a Scientific Centre.” Minerva 8: 160–79.

M. Bradley 1981. “Franco-Russian Engineering Links: The Careers of Lamé and Clapeyron, 1820–1830.Annals of Science 38 291–312.

M. Bradley 1985. “Civil Engineering and Social Change: The Early History of the Paris Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées.History of Education 14 171–83.

P. Bret 1991. “Le Dépôt Général de la Guerre et La formation scientifique des ingénieurs-géographiques militaires en France (1789–1820).” Annals of Science 48 113–57.

L. Daston 1986. “The Physicalist Tradition in Early Nineteenth-Century French Geometry.” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 17 269–95.

O. I. Franksen , and I. Grattan-Guinness 1989. “The Earliest Contribution to Location Theory: A Memoir by Lamé and Clapeyron, 1829.” Mathematics and Computers in Simulation 31 195220.

E. Glas 1986. “On the Dynamics of Mathematical Change in the Case of Monge and the French Revolution.” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 17 249–68.

I. Grattan-Guinness 1984. “Work for the Workers: Advances in Engineering Mechanics and Instruction in France, 1800–1830.” Annals of Science 41 1–33.

I. Grattan-Guinness 1990a. Convolutions in French Mathematics, 1800–1840: From the Calculus and Mechanics to Mathematical Analysis and Mathematical Physics. 3 vols. Basel: Birkhauser; Berlin, DDR: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften.

I. Grattan-Guinness 1990b. “Does History of Science Treat of the history of science? The Case of Mathematics.” History of Science 28 149–73.

I. Grattan-Guinness 1990c. “The Varieties of Mechanics by 1800.” Historia mathematical 17 313–38.

I. Grattan-Guinness 1990d. “Work for the Hairdressers: The Production of de Prony's Logarithmic and Trigonometric Tables.” Annals of the History of Computing 12 177–85.

H. Paul 1972. “The Issue of Decline in Nineteenth-Century French Science.” French Historical Studies 7 416–51.

A. Picon 1988. “Les ingénieurs et la mathématisation. L'exemple du genie civil et de la construction.” Revue d'histoire des sciences 42 155–72.

C. O. Smith 1990. “The Longest Run: Public Engineers and Planning in France.” American Historical Review 95 657–92.

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Science in Context
  • ISSN: 0269-8897
  • EISSN: 1474-0664
  • URL: /core/journals/science-in-context
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