Armel Cornu-Atkins: Final PhD Seminar
- Date: –16:00
- Location: The Rausing Room
- Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
- Contact person: H. Otto Sibum
Office for History of Science
Final PhD seminar for Armel Cornu-Atkins, Uppsala University. Preliminary title of dissertation: Enlightening waters, chemical analysis in eighteenth-century France. Discussant is Linn Holmberg, researcher at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University, and Pro Futura Scientia XIV Fellow at Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS), Uppsala.
The demand for mineral waters as elusive cure-alls increased significantly in eighteenth-century France. Once a luxury of the elite travelling to the spa, they overcame challenges of transport to reach a new urban public in the form of bottled commodities. This surge in popularity caught the attention of profit-driven sellers, of governing bodies attempting to regulate the trend, and of medical professionals wishing to explain their efficacy.
These actors all shared a need to access the composition of waters. The young discipline of chemistry gained credibility as the only branch of knowledge capable of delivering this expertise. This led physicians of all standings to initiate themselves in the craft of chemistry, and to adapt the methods of analysis to meet the required precision. This in turn, popularised the practice of chemistry, stabilising its status among the Enlightenment sciences. This place was further cemented by the endorsement of chemistry by the first institution to attempt control over the trade of mineral waters: the 1778 Société de Médecine. Staffed by a group of affluent physicians and chemists, the parisian Société used governement backing, scientific connections and a wide-reaching network of correspondants to settle its authority over mineral waters, leading to the creation of the first comprehensive legislation on their market.
Based on hitherto highly under-utilised archival material, this thesis uses narratives from the history of science, grounded in the institutional and social history of the Ancien Régime, to show how the chemical analysis of water became instrumental in bringing about the transformation of mineral waters into an enduring phenomenon. By doing this, it aims to present a new outlook onto the history of chemistry, its relationship to medicine, and its entanglements with economic, social and political forces, in the formative period of the French Enlightenment.