Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/445

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
439
THE INSTITUTE OF FRANCE

THE INSTITUTE OF FRANCE, AND SOME LEARNED SOCIETIES OF PARIS[1]
By EDWARD F. WILLIAMS

CHICAGO

I

THE Institute of France has been called the greatest educational work any government has ever organized and supported. Be that as it may, there is no denying that the service it has rendered learning and literature, scientific research and the fine arts, has been extensive and stimulating, that, beginning with the organization of the French Academy in the time of Richelieu, its history covers in a good degree the history of the intellectual and social development of the French people.

The institute embraces in its present organization five academies which in the order of their establishment, if not in importance, are as follows: The French Academy, to which the forty immortals belong, the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-lettres, the Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Academy of Moral and Political Science. The academies existing at the time of the revolution were abolished by the Convention as aristocratic in their tendency, and some of their members, known or supposed to be in favor of the monarchy, were guillotined, but as it was soon discovered that the knowledge of the members of the Academy of Sciences could be made of use to the new government, they were appointed on the commission of weights and measures. Thus some of the members of the old organization, meeting occasionally for the discussion of scientific subjects, managed to preserve at least the semblance of an academy of science. The so-called National Institute of Science and the Arts was recognized by the Directory August 22, 1795, and divided into three classes: (1) physical science and mathematics, (2) moral and political science, (3) literature and fine arts. From about 1667 to 1806 the sessions of the academies were held in the Louvre, in the great hall of Henry II. Since that time they have been held in a building which belongs to the institute, the Mazarin Palace, which was built by Cardinal Mazarin for the College of the Four Nations during the years 1661-5. It contains his library of more than 100,000 volumes, which is cared for


  1. Authorities: Maury, 'History of the Old Academy of Science'; reports of the academy from year to year; statements in Minerva from its foundation; 'History of Paris Educational Institutions' by Alexandre De Maistre.