Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/100

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coveries were of immense value in scientific study. The academy early became a kind of clearing house for European scientific students. Through it its members could make their opinions known to the world. The language they used and their literary skill rendered their writings popular. It was a rule of the academy, adopted at its organization to read every important scientific work published and report and discuss its contributions to the subject which it treated. The discoveries which members of the academy made, the instruments they used in their studies, the improvements suggested in many of them, were freely communicated in letters to other learned societies. For example, a careful description of the micrometer, invented by Picard and Auzout, was sent by de la Hire to Mr. Oldenbourg, secretary of the Royal Society of Great Britain. Correspondence was had with the society formed by a company of men in one of the provinces who called themselves Les curieux de la Nature, as well as with the society, Del Cimento, which flourished at Florence under the patronage of Leopold de Medici.

In this way the scientific world was united in a common aim, the increase of knowledge, at a time when many of the nations were at war. In this way it was possible for every discovery in science, every theory advanced in book or essay, to be criticized and discussed by a body of men who certainly were not inferior in mental endowment or in attainment to any equal number in all Europe. It was natural, therefore, that a book published under the auspices of the academy should receive wide circulation and careful consideration. As the work of one of the members of the academy was to a certain extent regarded as the work of all, the academy was proud of such a book as "The History of Plants" prepared by MM. du Clos and Dupont, with the aid of several other academicians, and published in 1676. Its popularity may be inferred from the fact that a second edition was called for three years after its first appearance. There was, however, a danger into which, during the later part of the seventeenth century, the academy fell, of being too practical in its work. To gratify the king or his ministers it gave a great deal of its time to the study of subjects which looked to an increase of the revenues of the nation, rather than to an increase of scientific knowledge. For example, much time was occupied in the analysis of the mineral waters of France, in studying methods of improving shipbuilding, the sailing of ships, in studying the principles of architecture, of bridge building, and other subjects, which, though of value to the country, were not those in which members of the academy were supposed to be most deeply interested.

One is interested also in studying the history and characteristics of some of the men who became famous in connection with the academy, du Hamel, the first secretary, though he had been a teacher of philosophy as well as of geometry, was given his place because of his