The ‘System of the World’ and the Scientific Culture of Early Modern France

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Abstract

Historians have long debated the origins of modern science in early modern Europe. Recently, however, scholars pointed to our need to understand how the ‘new philosophy’ became a sustained movement, which did not dissipate over the course of a few generations, as had previous scientific renaissances in other civilizations. This article suggests that the mediations of the printed book allowed a broader public to engage with the astronomical ideas at the core of scientific transformations. This article examines the interactions that the world of the book generated between authors at the ‘core’ of early modern science and ‘amateurs’ who were interested in recent cosmological discussion around the notion of the ‘system of the world’. It argues that this concept served simultaneously to discuss mathematico-physical problems, to make claims for authorship and to provide cultural orientation, which made it amenable to appropriation and dialogue across a range of genres. The new social interactions around the ‘system of the world’ allowed a heavily mathematical science to become a viable and sustainable cultural phenomenon, a veritable building-block of a new scientific culture at the heart of European modernity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-51
Number of pages23
JournalNotes and Records: the Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Volume78
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2024

Keywords

  • Astronomy
  • System of the World
  • Early Modern France
  • Amateurs
  • Authorship
  • Science and Literature
  • Eighteenth Century Science
  • History of Astronomy
  • Seventeenth Century Science
  • History of Scientific Institutions

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