© 2015

Conjuring Science

A History of Scientific Entertainment and Stage Magic in Modern France

  • Authors

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xii
  2. Sofie Lachapelle
    Pages 1-9
  3. Sofie Lachapelle
    Pages 11-35
  4. Sofie Lachapelle
    Pages 37-57
  5. Sofie Lachapelle
    Pages 59-88
  6. Sofie Lachapelle
    Pages 109-127
  7. Sofie Lachapelle
    Pages 129-136
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 137-201

About this book


Conjuring Science explores the history of magic shows and scientific entertainment. It follows the frictions and connections of magic and science as they occurred in the world of popular entertainment in France from the mid-eighteenth to the early twentieth century. It situates conjurers within the broader culture of science and argues that stage magic formed an important popular conduit for science and scientific enthusiasm during this period. From the scientific recreations of the fairs to the grand illusions of the theatre stage and the development of early cinema, conjurers used and were inspired by scientific and technological innovations to create illusions, provoke a sense of wonder, and often even instruct their audience. In their hands, science took on many meanings and served different purposes: it was a set of pleasant facts and recreational demonstrations upon which to draw; it was the knowledge presented in various scientific lectures accompanied by optical projections at magic shows; it was the techniques necessary to create illusions and effects on stage and later on at the cinema; and it was a way to separate conjuring from the deceit of mediums, mystical showmen and quacks in order to gain a better standing within an increasingly scientifically-minded society.


20. Jahrhundert 20th century France history stage

About the authors

Sofie Lachapelle is Associate Professor at the University of Guelph, Canada.

Bibliographic information


“Sofie Lachapelle’s Conjuring Science brings to the forefront a multifaceted history, examining how magic and science remarkably coexisted in France between the mid-eighteenth and the early twentieth century. … Conjuring Science offers an interesting portrait of the influence of popular magic and science education in nineteenth-century France. … this book enriches our historical understanding of the fine line often artificially created between science, popular knowledge and belief, and émerveillement.” (Jean-François Gauvin, Isis, Vol. 108 (3), September, 2017)