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Analytical Mechanics within the New Public Academy

Analytical Mechanics within the New Public Academy

First Steps, 1698–1700

(p.215) Chapter 8 Analytical Mechanics within the New Public Academy
Before Voltaire
J.B. Shank
University of Chicago Press

Chapter 8 continues the story of analytical mechanics, tracing the beginning of Varignon's first explicit, recorded work in this area in 1698, and its further development amidst the transformation of the Académie Royale des Sciences as a result of the comprehensive reform of the institution directed by Jean-Paul Bignon on behalf of the Pontchartrain ministry after 1699. The chapter begins by examining the nature of the reform and its rationale, along with the changes it brought to royal academic mathematics. It then looks at the way that the "Battle of the Ancients versus Moderns," a broad culture war in France at the time, influenced thinking in France about mathematics as well. It explicitly connects this battle to the appointment of Bernard le Bovier to Fontenelle as the new Perpetual Secretary of the Royal Academy in 1697, situating him on the side of the emerging camp of "mathematical Moderns" in and around the academy. The chapter concludes by looking in detail at the "modernist" innovations inherent in Varignon's new analytical mechanics, and at its favor within the newly reformed public academy. It further traces the rise of public opposition to his work in the person of academician Michel Rolle.

Keywords:   Pierre Varignon, The 1699 Reform of the Académie Royale des Sciences, the abbé Jean-Paul Bignon, Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, The Battle of the Ancients and Moderns, Jean Donneau de Visé and the Mercure galant, the public, mathematical phenomenalism, Michel Rolle

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