Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/13

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
9
THE INSTITUTE OF FRANCE

fellowship, poverty was still pressing. Such a college as the Sorbonne seemed to be needed. For a long time only poor students were admitted to its hospitality, and although the fare it furnished was luxurious in comparison with that which the young men had previously enjoyed, it was scant enough to justify the title the college received of "pauperrima domus." During the reign of Louis 100 scholars were lodged in it. They paid nothing. The house which the king made over to his chaplain for the college once belonged to Jean d'Orléans, and on its site with some additional space the present agnificent buildings stand.

Students in the Sorbonne have always been compelled to work. Even in the thirteenth century three severe examinations were required before one could obtain a bachelor's degree. In order to obtain the right to teach or to be known as doctor, at least ten years' study was necessary. Many theses were written, and their authors subjected to many tests of scholarship. The final examination occupied an entire day, beginning at 6 a.m. and closing at 6 p.m. There was no intermission for food, drink or exercise. Twenty wranglers, relieving each other every half hour, conducted the examination. They made it as difficult as possible and did all in their power to confuse the student.

In 1274 the Sorbonne provided courses in the humanities and philosophy as well as in theology. Its faculty has always been very conservative. It pronounced judgment against Jeanne d'Arc, condemned Luther and reform of every sort, and opposed the philosophy of Descartes. Since the revolution there has been no theological faculty. Instruction has been confined to literature and science. There are schools of law and medicine in the vicinity. The literary and scientific faculties of the university are installed in the buildings of the Sorbonne. Here also are the libraries, both of the university and of the college, numbering altogether about 300,000 volumes.

In 1821 the professors of the university complained that their laboratories were too small and their examination rooms inadequate and dark. It was in this year that the schools of the Sorbonne, which had been closed by the revolution, were reopened. Its property had been taken by the state in 1801. Renting it for a time, the state finally turned it into a lodging house for artists, sculptors, painters, architects and men of letters.

The complaints of the university brought up the question as to the ownership of the property. Was its title in the state or in the university? Legislation was protracted, but a decision rendered in 1852 gave the property to the university. Meanwhile the university faculties continued to ask for more room. There must be, they said, new laboratories for the proper study of chemistry, zoology and physics.