The Social Organisation of Enlightenment Science

  • Colin A. Russell
Part of the Themes in Comparative History book series (TCH)


There is no ‘inevitability’ about scientific progress. The very variable rates at which science progressed during the Enlightenment — and at other times — should be enough to convince us of this. Some have argued that few scientific theories are entirely value-free and that the practice of science depends greatly upon the cultural context in which it flourishes or wilts. At the very least social changes will affect the rate of scientific advance (leaving aside the question of its direction). The purpose of this chapter is to explore some of the ways in which Enlightenment science was affected by its social framework. In the broadest sense of the term we are talking about the institutionalisation of science. Except for the hypothetical scientist working alone on his desert island, screened from all influences from the outside world, everyone who practises science does so in some kind of institutional framework, even though the institutions may not be primarily designed for science itself (as, for example, when the scientist works for a firm or pursues a strong amateur interest within a loosely structured local community). But the institutionalisation of science as conventionally understood refers to the formally constituted bodies which are dedicated primarily or exclusively to the practice of science.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 12.
    T. H. Levere, ‘Friendship and influence: Martinus van Marum’, Notes and Records, 35 (1969) 113–120.Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    H. T. Parker, ‘French administrators and French scientists during the old regime and the early years of the revolution’, in H. T. Parker and R. Herr (eds) Ideas in History (Durham, N. C., 1965) 87–109 (90).Google Scholar
  3. 17.
    W. E. Knowles Middleton, The Experimenters: A Study of the Accademia del Ciments (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  4. 20.
    D. E. Allen, The Naturalist in Britain (Penguin, 1978), p. 36.Google Scholar
  5. 21.
    Michaud, Biographie Universelle (Paris: 1825) vol. 43, p. 431n.Google Scholar
  6. 22.
    C. B. Boyer, A History of Mathematics (New York, London, and Sydney: John Wiley, 1968) pp. 501–2.Google Scholar
  7. 24.
    F. W. Gibbs, Joseph Priestley (Nelson, 1965) p. 51.Google Scholar
  8. 27.
    A. Burton, Josiah Wedgwood (Deutsch, 1976) pp. 49, 107, 112.Google Scholar
  9. 33.
    P. M. Horsley, Eighteenth Century Newcastle (Newcastle: Oriel Press, 1971) pp. 88–9.Google Scholar
  10. 45.
    W. Oberhämmer, ‘Science in One City: the Vienna Story’, M & B Lab. Bull. 9 (1971) 88–91 (89).Google Scholar
  11. 50.
    See R. Taton (ed.), Enseignement et Diffusion des Sciences en France au XVIIIe Siècle (Paris: Hermann, 1964).Google Scholar
  12. 51.
    See H. R. Trevor-Roper, ‘The Scottish Enlightenment’, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 58 (1967) 1635–58.Google Scholar
  13. 59.
    See R. L. Emerson, ‘The Philosophical Society of Edinburgh’, B.J.Hist.Sci., 12 (1979) 154–191; 14 (1981) 133–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 61.
    S. Shapin, ‘Property, Patronage and the Politics of Science: the founding of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’, B.J. Hist. Sci. , 7 (1974)1–41, (11).Google Scholar
  15. 62.
    J. Kendall, ‘The First Chemical Society, The First Chemical Journal, and the Chemical Revolution’, Proc.Roy.Soc.Edinburgh, 63A (1952) 346–359: 385–400Google Scholar
  16. 63.
    D. McKie, ‘Some Notes on a Students’ Scientific Society in Eighteenth-Century Edinburgh’, Science Progress, 49 (1961) 228–241.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Colin A. Russell 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin A. Russell
    • 1
  1. 1.The Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

Personalised recommendations