Anatomy and physiology were revolutionized by the discovery of the circulation of the blood, of the chyliferous and lymphatic systems, by the beginning of histology and microscopic research. Medicine made progress in all its branches and was enriched by new medicaments."
Much of this was accomplished outside France. "In mathematics the French may place the names of Descartes, Pascal and Fermat, alongside of Kepler, Newton and Leibnitz, but the great Keplerian and Newtonian laws of universal gravitation; the great Leibnitzian theories on the formation of our globe; the astronomical discoveries of Galileo, Huyghens and Helvetius surpassed the work of Gassendi, Picard, Cassini, Bouillaud and Cassegrain. In physics Pascal, Descartes, Mariotte and Denis Papin upheld the French name, but the French have but one zoologist, Claude Perrault, physician and architect, to place alongside with those of Italy, England and especially Holland; in botany, Tournefort let himself be outdistanced by the English; in zoology the French had but Descartes and Maillet; in medical science they had only Pacquet, Duvemey and a few skilful practitioners." It is little wonder that Colbert, the prime minister, who was not slow in recognizing this state of things, should seek to change it by bringing the scientific reputation of France up to the level of that of other countries, or that he should take advantage of the treaty of Pyrenees to persuade the king to organize an academy of sciences. In no other way, he believed, could he increase the fame of the king more permanently than by establishing on a firm basis an academy to do for science what the academy of Richelieu had begun to do for literature.
Colbert's first thought was to form an academy which would embrace the most distinguished men in all branches of learning. This was soon found to be impracticable. It might be dangerous, politicians suggested, to discuss historical matters too carefully and earnestly, and as lovers of literature were satisfied to remain in Richelieu's academy only science and art were left for the new academy. There were many reasons why lovers of art and architecture were not represented in the new organization.
Although scientific men had for many years been in the habit of meeting in private houses to discuss questions of interest in science, at first only mathematicians were admitted to the new institution. These were Carcavi, Huyghens (of Holland), Roberval, Torricelli (of Italy), Auzout, Picard and Budt. To this number de la Chambre, physician in ordinary to the king, a physicist and famous as an author, was added. In a short time chemistry and anatomy were represented by du Clos, M. Perrault, Pacquet, Gavant and Marchaut. A few young men were brought into the academy to be trained in the studies it was seeking to advance, that they might be ready to fill vacancies as they occurred. These young men were Miquet, Couplet, Richer, Pivert