|THE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, PARIS, FROM 1666 TO 1699|
THE account of the Paris Academy of Sciences, one of the five organizations which together form the French Institute, is found in its Mémoires, and in the history of the academy published in 1733 of which the portion written by du Hamel, the first secretary, was in Latin and covered the years from 1666 to 1679, This history was continued in French by M. de Fontenelle, du Hamel's successor, to nearly the end of the year 1699. An edition of this history in five volumes was published in Holland in 1740, but those who wish for absolute accuracy should consult the Mémoires published at Paris in 1740. Of these Mémoires there were forty volumes. The history of the old academy, which covers very fully the period from its reorganization in 1699 to its abolition by the revolution written by L. F. Alfred Maury, a member of the institute, published in 1864 by Diderot , though trustworthy, and very valuable, is far from easy reading.
During the first half of the seventeenth century, a literary man was expected to be a scientific man also, or at least to possess a general knowledge of scientific principles and of the discoveries which scientific men had made. Descartes, for example, was a physicist, a mathematician and a philosopher. Specialization began in the eighteenth century with men like Buffon. Not long after the middle of the seventeenth century there grew up a feeling in the more cultivated circles that something ought to be done to increase the honor shown scientific men, and to make better provision for their work. Although science was in a more advanced condition in several other countries than in France, France was behind no one of them in her efforts to organize her scientific forces and render them of value to her people. As the "Historians' History" (Vol. XL, p. 637) says: "The seventeenth century was one of the great scientific ages of humanity. It saw the birth of analytical geometry and of the infinitesimal calculus, the formulation of the astronomical laws of Kepler and Newton, and the workings of astronomical discovery. It witnessed the first great stride of physics, the progress of optics and acoustics, the invention of the barometer, the thermometer, the manometer, the air pump, the electrical machine; the first rudiments of the steam engine; the first researches on plant life, and the first attempt at botanical classification.