Meeting in Public
Meeting in Public
This chapter is about the politics of representation in science. During the 1820s and 1830s, scientific societies and academies began to publish journals of their own, modeled on commercial publications, with titles such as Proceedings, Comptes rendus, and Sitzungsberichte. To understand how and why this happened, this chapter focuses on the increasing publicity given to meetings of elite science during the 1820s. The rising political importance of newspaper reports on the meetings of government bodies set the stage for reporting on scientific meetings. “Public opinion” was invoked as the most legitimate judge in matters of science in opposition to the elite academies. The meetings of the Paris Academy of Sciences in particular attracted widespread coverage in political journals during the late Bourbon Restoration. Although the Academy increasingly accommodated such publicity, by the 1830s radical journals took a more aggressive approach to scientific journalism. This led to a confrontation between radicals such as François-Vincent Raspail and the Academy, pitting two distinct visions of the scientific public against one another. It is in this context that the Academy made the controversial decision to launch a weekly journal, the Comptes rendus hebdomadaires, which became a watershed in the history of scientific publishing.
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