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Science, Secrets, and the State in 18th-century France

Science, Secrets, and the State in 18th-century France

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Columbia University

Presented By

Presented by the History and Philosophy of Science Section of the New York Academy of Sciences


The public sphere has long been the main historiographical framework for understanding the Enlightenment and its scientific culture. But what do we make of this framework when we shift the focus of historical analysis from texts to practices, from books to manuscripts and artifacts, from rhetoric to materials, from places to exchanges? This paper addresses such questions in the context of the French attempts to promote the national manufacture of silk threads. It offers a careful contextualization of the notion of secrets and industrial espionage, while challenging the dichotomy between the open culture of science and state secrecy.

This event is free, but registration is required.


Paola Bertucci

Yale University

Paola Bertucci received her D.Phil. in History of Science from the University of Oxford. Her work focuses on various aspects of science and medicine in the age of Enlightenment: spectacle and secrecy; travel and industrial espionage; the human body in experimental practice; collections of scientific instruments and the material culture of science; meteorology and natural catastrophes. She has published on 18th-century electricity and medical electricity and has organized several museum exhibitions, including two permanent galleries in the new Galileo Museum in Florence, Italy: The Spectacle of Science and Science at Home.

She is currently writing a book on science, spectacle and secrecy in Enlightenment France.

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