Le rôle des « objets intermédiaires » dans l’étude naturaliste du Mont-Blanc 1740-1825
Un article de René Sigrist et Dominique Vinck dans le cadre du projet FNS Promoting Knowledge et pour le journal "Archives des sciences", 69, 101-135
The function of “intermediary objects” in the natural history of Mont-Blanc, 1740-1825. –
This article analyses the conditions of the scientific discovery of Mont-Blanc in regard to the exchanges of artefacts between scholars. In a period when the emerging scientific field is still bordered by artists, men of letters and wealthy travelers, some of these “intermediary objects” combine scientific functions with cultural and social ones. It is particularly obvious for illustrations of mountains and glaciers, despite de Saussure’s attempt to develop them as geological tools. In the case of specimens, their function and circulation is very dependent on the research field as well as on the intentions and methodological conceptions of each scholar. Some collections are still conceived for curiosity and social display, whereas others are intended for instruction and
research. Most of them combine different functions in various proportions. The specimens they contain may thus be spectacular or not. They can be viewed by colleagues or tourists, be presented at local societies, or remain stored for personal use. They circulate as illustrations into wider circles, or are simply mentioned by visitors. Foreign geologists and naturalists can thus be supplied in study objects sent as specimens, illustrations or texts. But this circulation of intermediary objects can not totally replace the field experience, especially in the case of geology. In a final section, the article analyses the circulation of manuscripts and published texts, which are intermediary objects as well as semiotic items, and therefore create their own collaborative dynamics between scholars.
18th century, natural history, geology, Mont-Blanc, specimens, cabinets, illustrations
par Joëlle de Magalhaes