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Dena Goodman on Scientific Educations in a Time of War

Venue: Margaret Jacks Hall, Terrace Room, Stanford main campus.

Host: Seminar on Enlightenment and Revolution and Stanford History Department.

Speaker: Dena Goodman is Lila Miller Collegiate Professor of History and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan and co-director of The Encyclopedia of Diderot and D’Alembert Collaborative Translation Project.

Description: In this paper I suggest that in the two decades when French armies were marching across Europe and sailing across the Mediterranean, an Enlightenment passion for science could be harnessed to France’s own ambitions, ambitions that were fueled in part by the aspirations of young men aiming to make careers in science and technology. Invoking their greater usefulness to the patrie as scientists and engineers than as soldiers, these young men were propelled to France’s expanding borders by a scientifically-based idea of social and economic progress that complemented and supported military conquest beyond the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean, and the Rhine. The young men I examine seized opportunities to travel that would advance their careers, enable them to establish themselves in a changing world, and become instrumental in building a new state, society, and economy. And they did so not in defiance of their fathers, but to further the Enlightenment aims of that earlier generation.