Cain Distinguished Fellow
- E-mail: rfox-at-chemheritage-dot-org
- Phone: 215.873.8240
My earliest memories of CHF go back to a fine conference on “Chemical Sciences in the Modern World” in 1990. More recently, I got to know the delights of the Othmer Library during the two weeks that I spent there in 2010 (an initial week providentially extended to two by the Iceland volcano and the consequent cancellation of several days of flights to Europe). Now, I return as a Cain Distinguished Fellow with a pretty full research agenda, mainly to do with the French chemical industry and more broadly with international relations in chemistry and other sciences between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries. Both of these strands arise from a book that I published last year entitled The Savant and the State: Science and Cultural Politics in Nineteenth-Century France (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012). Enforced trimming of the manuscript (to get the overall length down and keep the focus on the more “cultural” dimensions of science) left me with excised material that will be the starting point for the book I should like to embark on this fall. Provisionally entitled Savants and Patriots: Science and the National Interest in France, 1850–1940, the book will have quite a lot to say about the relations between science, technology, and industry in France. At CHF, I should particularly like to push ahead with parts of the book to do with chemical manufacturing and applied research and with the place of the French in the international community of chemistry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An immediate, related aim will be to prepare an article on the celebrations in Paris to mark the centenary of the birth of Marcellin Berthelot in 1927; these celebrations led to the founding of the Maison de la Chimie, located in Paris but planned as a world center for chemistry, one that still exists as a European collaborator of CHF. Working out from that case study, I plan to look at broader aspects of the tensions between internationalist ideals (for example, in language, information retrieval, and communication) and the often competing realities of national interests in science, with special though not exclusive reference to chemistry.
Robert Fox at Linacre College, Oxford
Rohm and Haas Fellow in Focus Lecture: Robert Fox