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April 10, 1972

The Anatomy of a Scientific Institution: The Paris Academy of Sciences, 1666-1803

JAMA. 1972;220(2):279. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200020087031

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The Experimenters: A Study of the Accademia del Cimento, by W. E. Knowles Middleton, 415 pp, with illus, $22.50, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1971.

Science is expensive business. Where will the money come from? If private sources dry up, then, obviously, turn to the government. This solution is not unique to late-20th-century America, but operated as well in 17th-century France, and led directly to the founding of the Paris Academy of Sciences in 1666. Professor Hahn's account of the rise and fall and transformation of this remarkable organization is a major contribution to the history of science.

The story is exceedingly complex, with many ramifications. The 17th century was crucial in the development of modern science. Many difficulties arose, and the support that the French government offered scientists was not without its price. The Academy of Sciences served the state well, acting as official arbiter in all scientific and technological