DS0805 -

The Bureau des longitudes (1795-1932): from French Revolution to Third Republic – BDL1795-1932

Submission summary

Nowadays researchers have to encourage the development of scientific and technical culture, thus promoting an interdisciplinary and comparative reflection on the interrelations between science and society. The ANR project “BDL1795-1932 works in this perspective; starting from the study of an institution established about 220 years ago, its ambition is to analyse the mutual influences between science and its various “external” outcomes, be them social, practical, economical, cultural or even political.

This ANR project proposes a long-term study on the history of the Bureau des Longitudes in its national and international context. In order to achieve this goal, it is founded on an unknown source: the minutes of its meetings. They contain a large set of interesting manuscripts: many of them were written by its prestigious members (Laplace, Poincaré, Lagrange, Arago, etc.). Most of them remain still unknown to the research community. They also contain a lot of unpublished letters, scientific and technical reports.

For all these reasons the minutes represent an exceptional source for the study of scientific and technological activities and their institutional evolution (from patronage to professionalization, from personal relationships to confrontations with peers). Created in 1795, the Bureau des Longitudes was a place for collective expertise and an advisory committee for the French government. It furthermore participated in the administration of French science and technology. It played a primary role in the organization and development of astronomy and celestial mechanics, the adoption of the decimal metric system, the definition and implementation of time scales, the emission and transmission of time signals, the development of earth physics and dynamical geodesy and the organization of major scientific expeditions.

All these questions are covered by the minutes, which are now digitized and edited online within a BSN5-2013 project, achieved in February 2016 (http://bdl.ahp-numerique.fr/). This ANR project relies on its scientific study and its popularization towards various communities.

The project brings together, in a close partnership with the Bureau des Longitudes, an international team of scientist, historians of science and technology, curators and digitization specialists. The ambition of the involved scholars is to produce a high-level, objectified, innovative, comparative and collaborative study about the history of an institution which played a key role in the scientific and technological orientations of French governments.

As such, the study of this institution will offer more general insights about the modalities of construction, diffusion and sharing of scientific and technological knowledge among different social groups (from scientific communities to general public) and the mechanisms of integration and/or adaptation of innovation.

Project coordinator

Madame Martina SCHIAVON (Maison des sciences de l'Homme Lorraine)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


BDL Bureau des longitudes
MSHL Maison des sciences de l'Homme Lorraine
LHSP-AHP Laboratoire d'histoire des sciences et de philosophie - Archives Henri Poincaré

Help of the ANR 324,933 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: October 2016 - 48 Months

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