Symposium 7

International scientific collaboration and the emergence of National Communities Between the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Maria Teresa Borgato

In the eighteenth century, a defined form for the organisation of scientific research was provided by the academies of sciences, which, in the 19th century, saw various other institutions of higher education being added to them, beginning with universities, to which polytechnic and normal schools were added over time, followed by various kinds of institutes. Around these institutions, scientific communities were formed, whose initial activities took on a predominantly national character. At first, international contacts were reduced to correspondence, exchange of publications, rare visits abroad on the part of individual scientists. However, at the beginning of the 19th century these phenomena began to develop significantly. The revolutionary events (primarily in France), the wars unfolding in Europe triggered processes of migration from some countries, with scientists seeking positions far from the areas affected by the unrest. However, the main reason for this was the enlargement of the scientific community and of access to higher education, and the reorganization of the universities, which institutionalized the figure of the professor-researcher, as happened in France with the École Normale de l’an III or in Germany with the Humboldtian reform. The consolidation of nation states reinforced this process. On the other hand, the emergence of specialized scientific journals not only prompted the publication of articles by foreign authors, but also the election of foreign members in established scientific societies, and the societies themselves organize the exchange of their publications. At national scientific congresses it became possible to attend lectures by specialists from different countries. The practice of training journeys abroad for young scientists also became more popular. Gradually, international congresses were established in the various sciences, the end of the century saw the appearance of international research projects and organizations, even though nation states guaranteed most of the funds available for training and research. The First World War highlighted the limits of this model, and the need to create plurinational organizations specifically dedicated to targeted scientific research. The purpose of this symposium is to discuss various aspects of this process in a broad social and cultural context, and, in particular, to examine its manifestations by means of concrete materials for the history of sciences (correspondences, archives, libraries, documentary collections, etc).