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Managing toward Consensus

Managing toward Consensus

Bignon, Fontenelle, and the Creation of the Pax Analytica in France

Chapter:
(p.298) Chapter 10 Managing toward Consensus
Source:
Before Voltaire
Author(s):
J.B. Shank
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226509327.003.0010

Chapter 10 shows how the battle over analytical mechanics was concluded in favor of Varignon and his science, and how it became an accepted and established academic science in France largely through the discursive management of Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle. Exploiting the new role for the Perpetual Secretary created by the 1699 academy reform, Fontenelle worked to secure the cohesion of the academy in a way that put analytical mechanics at its center. His administrative collaborations with Jean-Paul Bignon are examined, as are the demographic shifts in the academy that supported this outcome. But most important, the chapter argues, was Fontenelle's exploitation of his new role as official public spokesman for royal academic science to secure a settlement favorable to analytical mechanics. Fontenelle's own Malebranchian sentiments in favor of the new science were one important component, but just as crucial, the chapter argues, was Fontenelle's use of the annual publication program of the academy to create a discursive foundation supporting analytical mechanics and marginalizing its critics. Grounded upon Fontenelle's official annual histories, public orations, and management of public academic discourse, analytical mechanics became after 1710 an unquestioned feature of French academic science for the remainder of the century.

Keywords:   Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, Histoire et Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des Science, Jean-Paul Bignon, Joseph Saurin, éloges, "On the Utility of Mathematics for the Sciences"

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