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- Science in the Provinces
A. Synopsis: The study of French science should not be a study of only Parisian science. This book studies the place, the people, and their preoccupation in the provincial scientific community during the 19th and 20th centuries. At the turn of the century, science in the provinces briefly threatened the hegemony of the Parisian institutions. Nye examines the university science in Nancy, Grenoble, Lyon, Toulouse, and Bordeaux. Their success was based upon both administrative, social, and economic circumstances and individual achievement. The overall strength of French science lay in the diversity rooted in the provinces.
B. The Paris-Provinces Dichotomy
1. Early in this period Paris was the center of intellectual training. This training was based upon preparing students for qualifying examinations (uniformity of thought). Mathematics, as the queen of the sciences was privileged over other disciplines such as chemistry. The salary system was also corrupt. Salaries were legally higher in Paris, and older faculty were able to hold more than one position, thus restricting younger scientists from advancing.
2. This centralized system changed dramatically in the 1880s and the 1890s. The education of traditional scientific elite’s remained in Paris, but new scientific and engineering elite’s moved into the provincial university setting. The result of this trend was the creation of the CNRS in 1939 and ENSI after the WWII.
C. Interests of the provincial science
1. Science in the provinces was directed to local interest. At Nancy, the industrial NE near the German border, developed programs in chemistry, brewing, electricity, and metallurgy. Lyon was a textile center and supported chemical programs. Wine growers around Toulouse and Bordeaux supported agricultural sciences. Grenobe was isolated from the rest of the country and had no area of specialization. As a result, Raoult developed a new approach to chemistry (experimental basis of ionist physical chemistry).
D. French universities
1. An opening chapter deals with the university. It discusses educational reformers, politicians, and bureaucrats and their individual interests for the university system.
E. The importance of applied science and technology in France
1. One of the main and most important conclusions in this book is the pervasive interest in applied science and technology. This seems contrary to those who believe that France is more theoretical. Nye argues that the whole issue of France’s scientific decline has been misunderstood because of a failure to appreciate their work in applied science.