Scientific Institutions and Practice in France and Britain, c.1700–c.1870: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Scientific Institutions and Practice in France and Britain, c.1700–c.1870

1st Edition

By Maurice Crosland


288 pages

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This second collection of studies by Maurice Crosland has as a first theme the differences in the style and organisation of scientific activity in Britain and France in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Science was more closely controlled in France, notably by the Paris Academy of Sciences, and the work of provincial amateurs much less prominent than in Britain. The most dramatic change in any branch of science during this period was in chemistry, largely through the work of Lavoisier and his colleagues, the focus of several articles here, and the dominance of this group caused considerable resentment outside France, not least by Joseph Priestley. The issue of authority in science emerges again, within France under the rule of Napoleon, in a study of the exceptional power exercised by the great mathematician Laplace both in theoretical science and in academic politics. This exploration of organisation and power is complemented by a comparative study of the practice of early 'physics' and chemistry and their different reliance on laboratories. This raises the question of whether chemistry provided a model for later experimental work in other sciences, both through the construction of pioneering laboratories and in establishing early schools of research.


’Maurice Crosland is one of the most revered names in the history of eighteenth and early nineteenth-century history of science particularly for his expertise in the history of chemistry.’ H-France Review ’there is much to go at here, including not only finely focused contributions to research but also more general reflective pieces - on eighteenth-century chemistry and the organisation of chemistry in nineteenth-century France, for example - that bear the characteristic stamp of Crosland’s wide reading and measured judgements.’ Ambix

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Supplementary bibliography. Part I Institutions: Relationships between the Royal Society and the Académie des Sciences in the late 18th century; The Copley Medal: the establishment of a reward system in the Royal Society, 1731-1839; The officiers de santé of the French Revolution: a case study in the changing language of medicine; Lavoisier, the 2 French Revolutions and the 'imperial despotism of oxygen'; A science empire in Napoleonic France;The organisation of chemistry in 19th-century France; Popular science and the arts: challenges to cultural authority in France under the Second Empire. Part II Practice: Early laboratories c.1600-c.1800 and the location of experimental science;'Slippery substances': some practical and conceptual problems in the understanding of gases in the pre-Lavoisier era; Chemistry: 18th century; Research schools of chemistry from Lavoisier to Wurtz; Difficult beginnings in experimental science at Oxford: the Gothic chemistry laboratory; Index.

About the Author

Maurice Crosland is Emeritus Professor in the School of History, University of Kent at Canterbury, UK.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century