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French astronomy during the Belle Époque. The professionalization of a scientific activity - A. Saint-Martin

Arnaud Saint-Martin
Laboratoire Printemps, CNRS-Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, 47, boulevard Vauban, 78047 Guyancourt, France

Available online 29 August 2012 on ScienceDirect
doi : 10.1016/j.soctra.2012.07.002

The article describes the way French astronomy developed during the Belle Époque (ca. 1880–1914). It identifies and accounts for the particulars of a scientific occupation, which until today has been misrepresented in the history of science. We show how the practice of astronomy was rigidly rationalized and integrated into a scientific-bureaucratic regime. Established in state observatories (e.g. the Paris Observatory), astronomy was defined as a professional activity practiced by a group of “workers” of the sky. Analysis enables us to shed some light on how the cognitive content of astronomy as a discipline, the institutional framework constituted by the state observatories, and the group of professional astronomers all interacted and were in fact co-constructed.

Keywords : Astronomy ; Observatory ; Scientific activity ; Scientific institution ; Scientific discipline ; Sociology and history of science

Article Outline

  • 1. Astronomic labor
  • 2. Instituting a public service of astronomy
  • 3. Imposing professional astronomy
  • 4. Conclusion
  • References

Sociologie du Travail
Volume 54, Supplement 1, August 2012
Translated by Gabrielle Varro