Stephane van Damme: "Geological Grandeur, Mineral Metropolis"
- Date: 05 December, 13:15–15:00
- Location: Engelska parken - The Rausing Room
- Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
- Contact person: H. Otto Sibum
Office for History of Science
Stephane van Damme, Professor of History of Science, European University Institute, Florence: "Geological Grandeur, Mineral Metropolis: Exploring a physical history of Paris (1750-1850)"
The need for exploring the depth of metropolis became a vast field of investigation between 1750 and 1850 in major metropolises like Paris, London or New York. If modern cities were object of investigation and terrain for geologists and mineralogists' field works, their learned representations played also a role in the rescaling of the city and in the recognition of a new urban format entitled metropolis. In moving from the ground beneath Paris, moth-eaten with galleries, to the Paris Basin, the scientists operated a change of scale and raised number of public issues. The ages of the Earth offered a far broader historical depth than the historical time of human societies alone. By these extended uses of metaphors, images and representations, scientists played a crucial role in the redefinition of the city into a metropolis, which occurred between 1750 and 1850 by putting the stress on a transformative vision of nature. Urban context has its specificity for understanding the origins of environmentalism. Exploring the physical history of Paris included conflicted vision of nature and society: nature and society as a threat (natural, social and political), and nature as to be improved and controlled through engineering (social, technical engineering). Locating precisely the role played by natural sciences in this process of imposing a new collective representation of the city, is a way of contributing to the urban history of science advocated in a special issue of the prestigious series Osiris in 2003.