In this enthralling and dazzling book, acclaimed science writer Steve Jones shows how wrong this was and takes a new look at Paris, its history, and its science, to give the reader dazzling new insight into the City of Light.
Steve Jones is professor of genetics at University College London. He is the author of The Darwin Archipelago; Y: The Descent of Man; Darwin's Ghost; Almost Like a Whale: The Origin of Species; and The Serpent’s Promise. Jones is the winner of Royal Society Faraday Medal for the Public Understanding of Science. He lives in London.
Fox provides a comprehensive history of the public face of French science from the Bourbon Restoration to the outbreak of the Great War. Following the Enlightenment, many different interests competed to define the role of science and technology in French society. Political and religious conservatives tended to blame the scientific community for upsetting traditional values and, implicitly, delivering France into the hands of revolutionary extremists and Napoleonic bureaucrats. Scientists, for their part, embraced the belief that observation and experimentation offered the surest way to the knowledge and wisdom on which the welfare of society depended. This debate, Fox argues, became a contest for the hearts and minds of the French citizenry.
In politics, argues Gillispie, the central feature of this modernization was conversion of subjects of a monarchy into citizens of a republic in direct contact with a state enormously augmented in power. To the scientific community, attainment of professional status was what citizenship was to all Frenchmen in the republic proper, namely the license to self-governance and dignity within the respective contexts. Revolutionary circumstances set up a resonance between politics and science since practitioners of both were future oriented in their outlook and scornful of the past.
Among the creations of the First French Republic were institutions providing the earliest higher education in science. From them emerged rigorously trained people who constituted the founding generation in the disciplines of mathematical physics, positivistic biology, and clinical medicine. That scientists were able to achieve their ends was owing to the expertise they provided the revolutionary and imperial authorities in education, medicine, warfare, empire building, and industrial technology.
General Alex Dumas is a man almost unknown today, yet his story is strikingly familiar—because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used his larger-than-life feats as inspiration for such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.
But, hidden behind General Dumas's swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: he was the son of a black slave—who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time. Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas made his way to Paris, where he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution—until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.
The Black Count is simultaneously a riveting adventure story, a lushly textured evocation of 18th-century France, and a window into the modern world’s first multi-racial society. TIME magazine called The Black Count "one of those quintessentially human stories of strength and courage that sheds light on the historical moment that made it possible." But it is also a heartbreaking story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son.