The Courtiers' AnatomistsAnimals and Humans in Louis XIV's Paris

The Courtiers' AnatomistsAnimals and Humans in Louis XIV's Paris

Anita Guerrini

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780226247663

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book explores the role of dissection and of animals in the development of experimental methods in seventeenth-century science in the city of Paris between 1643 and 1715. Science was embedded in other cultural pursuits because the same people practiced science, architecture, art, music, and literature simultaneously and Paris contributed to the birth of many of these cultural markers of modernity. The royal court of Louis XIV exercised control of cultural production by means of its patronage, but this was never total. The courtiers and anatomists who depended on the crown were not simply those in attendance at court, and they cannot easily be labelled as “ancients” or “moderns.” The other individuals in this book are animals. This study documents the enormous role of animals in the birth of the experimental method as well as in natural history and the reconfiguration of the human and animal body. Dissection can claim to be the most widespread and significant scientific activity of the era, and Paris became its epicenter. Anatomy and natural history formed two sides of the same coin: one could not take place without the other. Dissection evolved into a practice distinct both from medicine and from ancient philosophies, and natural history increasingly emphasized direct observation, while both maintained their humanist ties to textual knowledge. Both were driven, moreover, by a curiosity that would not easily be satisfied until everything possible was known about the human and animal body.