Government restrictions on the production and dissemination of certain kinds of scientific and technical knowledge have become increasingly common and controversial. Weapons related research has long been kept strictly classified. In recent years, however, even cryptographic research funded by non-defense agencies like the NSF have had publication restrictions placed on them. Within the past year, a US government supported conference on new developments in superconductivity was closed to non-US participants or observers. As often happens in the history of science, however, these seemingly new restrictions on research by the state have had a very long history. Indeed, in the Renaissance, Venice tried to restrict information about the new science projectile motion being carried out by Niccolo Tartaglia. Dr. Stroup, under this research grant, will be examining the relationship between scientists and the French state just as both modern science and the modern centralized state were developing. As Dr. Stroup notes, the Scientific Revolution brought with it not only new science but a new ideology about the world and humans place in it. This ideology was a kind of creed for scientists who articulated ideas of progress, advocated collective research, claimed that knowledge transcended geopolitical borders, and sought practical benefits for humankind. As a theory of knowledge and its social functions, this ideology affirmed the power of reason, had its roots in civic humanism and utopian ideas and linked science and society. This same ideology informs, to a greater or lesser degree, science as it is practiced today. Even in this early period in the history of modern science, alliances between the scientists and the state sometimes made this ideology a fiction. In France, for example, Louis XIV founded and funded an Academie Royale des Sciences and a Compagnie des Arts et Metiers, whose members and activities embody the conflict between this new ideology and political constraints. Dr. Stroup is examining the scientific ideology as articulated by late 17th century French scientists and is comparing it with the ideologies advanced by contemporary political philosophies. This comparison reveals how science and ideology were used by scientists and the state. She will look at this interplay in the context of four central issues: the clash between scientific and political ideologies; the role of technology in political theory and practice; scientists as secret agents; and science, politics and religion. She will carry out this research at archives in Paris.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Ronald J. Overmann
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Bard College
United States
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