Monday, 26 December 2016

Masculine Knowledge, the Public Good, and the Scientific Household of Réaumur.



In the Royal Academy of Sciences of Paris (founded 1666), expressions of a masculine culture of science echoed contemporary language used to articulate the aristocracy's value to crown and state--even though the academy was not an aristocratic institution as such. In the eighteenth century, the pursuit of science became a new form of manly service to the crown, often described in terms of useful knowledge and benefit to the public good [le bien public]. This article explores the connection of academic scientific knowledge to the domestic spaces where it was made and, in particular, to the household of R.-A. Ferchault de Réaumur, an exemplary academician. Although Réaumur had neither wife nor children, a complex net of affective ties, some of them familial, linked the members of the household, which accommodated women (the artist Hélène Dumoustier and her female relatives) as well as men (a series of assistants, many of whom eventually entered the academy). As head of this dynamic household, Réaumur produced not only scientific results but also future academicians.