Sei sulla pagina 1di 2

444 BOOK REVIEWS

tanto come un semplicistico scontro tra cri- ripartizione delle fonti, edite e inedite, pos-
stianesimo e scienza, ma come un’interazio- sa essere meno utile della loro analisi sotto
ne tra differenti visioni cosmologiche ed an- forma di ‘‘continuum stretching from the
tropologiche (‘‘The Shape and Meaning of most private to the most public forms of ac-
Earth History’’), ognuna portatrice di speci- tivity’’ (XIII, p. 200), non è certo limitato
fici valori individuali e collettivi, ed appog- nelle sue possibili applicazioni alla storia
giate a differenti forze sociali. Non a caso, della geologia.
Rudwick mette in rilievo come il creazioni- In breve, questi saggi celano lezioni che
smo biblico fosse osteggiato anche in conte- nell’attuale panorama della storia della
sti diversi da quello della nascita della scien- scienza meritano di essere attentamente
za moderna, ad esempio nell’aristotelismo considerate. Il superamento dell’antitesi cri-
padovano di inizio Cinquecento; o come la stianesimo/scienza in geologia, per citarne
‘‘freccia del tempo’’, contrapposta al tempo una, non è una concessione al completo re-
ciclico della filosofia classica, sia figlia della lativismo culturale come dimostra la critica
concezione cristiana della storia (‘‘Geolo- senza tentennamenti all’odierno revival
gist’s Time’’). La necessità di una cronologia creazionista; e in un ambito di studi minac-
assoluta dei mutamenti della Terra era stata ciato dall’iper-specializzazione e dalla fram-
posta prima di tutto dai cronologisti cristia- mentazione in piccole comunità auto-refe-
ni, ansiosi di provare la storicità del diluvio; renziali, quella di Rudwick resta un’opera
del resto, alla fine del Settecento il diluviali- che ha il merito di poter essere letta con
smo poteva essere sostenuto da un filoso- profitto non solo dagli storici della scienza
fo naturale influente e competente quale o della geologia, ma dagli storici tout court.
Jean-André de Luc, posto di fronte all’evi-
denza di un evento catastrofico avvenuto IVANO DAL PRETE
poche migliaia di anni prima – l’ultima gla-
ciazione, in effetti – ma anche al ripudio dei
valori tradizionali da parte dei philosophes
che aveva condotto alla catastrofe sociale ANTHONY J. TURNER, Après Gassendi. Son
della Rivoluzione francese (‘‘Jean-André de influence et sa réputation, essai, avec l’his-
Luc and Nature’s Chronology’’). toire des collections scientifiques et un cat-
L’interesse di altri articoli è solo in appa- alogue des instruments et appareils concer-
renza più circoscritto; in ‘‘The Devonian nant les sciences exactes appartenant au
Controversy’’, ad esempio, l’analisi della po- Musée Gassendi à Digne-les-Bains. Digne-
lemica passa attraverso la ricostruzione di les-Bains: Musée Gassendi, 2006. 323 pp.,
una ‘‘topografia sociale e cognitiva’’ della ISBN 2-912450-07-1.
geologia negli anni trenta dell’Ottocento, e
dei processi di apprendimento e di produ- When the museum at Digne-les-Bains
zione di conoscenza naturalistica (XIII, was renamed Musée Gassendi in 2003, it
p. 197). I saggi in cui si ricostruisce l’ado- (most likely) did not astonish the inhabi-
zione di uno specifico linguaggio visuale tants of this French southern city. Going
per la geologia (‘‘The emergence of a visual back to the nineteenth-century, it was said
language for geological science 1760-1840’’, (though doubtfully) that paysans near Digne
‘‘Encounters with Adam, or at least the mentioned Pierre Gassendi’s name with a
hyaenas: nineteenth-century visual repre- sense of pride. And in 1843, when the Pré-
sentations of the deep past’’) trattano non fecture des Basses-Alpes decided to raise a
solo della nuova coscienza di sé di una disci- monument to the local seventeenth-century
plina emergente, ma anche dei cambiamenti hero, praise and admiration went so far as
tecnici ed economici sopravvenuti nella ri- to suggest that perhaps Gassendi created
produzione di materiale visivo nei primi de- Newton (‘‘Peut-être a-t-il créé Newton’’, p.
cenni dell’Ottocento. L’interessante sug- 47). Although this book reads as a panegy-
gerimento metodologico che la classica ric to Gassendi’s regional fame, it reveals si-
BOOK REVIEWS 445

multaneously a fascinating chapter of Pro- decade later, the Lycée de Digne was re-
vence’s struggle toward cultural autonomy named Lycée Gassendi (1897). Concur-
vis-à-vis the nation’s capital, Paris. rently, owing to a national educational re-
Après Gassendi is Anthony Turner’s sec- form, science entered the French lycées’
ond major collaboration with the Musée curriculum, strongly emphasizing the use
Gassendi. Fifteen years ago, he worked on of instruments. For this reason a large num-
an exhibition and catalogue celebrating ber of instruments were used for teaching
the 400th anniversary of Gassendi’s birth by several lycées in Digne, until they were
(1592-1655). Turner is a distinguished boxed and forgotten in the first decades
authority in the field and remains a valeur of the twentieth century. Fortunately, they
sûre for writing such a comprehensive cata- were slowly rediscovered and moved to
logue. In this case, his research has uncov- the Musée Gassendi between 1965 and
ered several primary sources linking Gas- 2005. The bulk of this book is thus dedi-
sendi’s local eminence to the museum’s col- cated to the museum’s instrument collec-
lections. Turner demonstrates first that dur- tion of physics and other exact sciences.
ing the Enlightenment, Gassendi was All illustrated in color, and given short in-
defended and used as an icon by some of formed entries, the instruments demon-
the most important provincial scholars and strate the range of scientific lectures given
institutions. To offset, for instance, the Aca- at that time to French students. The instru-
démie française’s 1765 prize essay dedi- ments themselves, however, are rather com-
cated to Descartes, the Académie des mon to such nineteenth-century collections,
and consequently do not add anything new
sciences et de belles-lettres de Marseille es-
and original to the unique essay on Gassen-
tablished a similar one for Gassendi two
di’s influence and reputation in Provence.
years later. This patriotic undertaking by a
The value of this book does not therefore
‘‘compagnie illustre, jalouse de soutenir la
lie upon the description of the instrument
gloire de ce savant [et] l’honneur de la
collection. It rests rather on the historical
Provence’’ (p. 27) was continued in the role played by Gassendi’s spirit (1) in pro-
nineteenth century by a Catholic revival moting science and acquiring numerous in-
movement. Owing to his Epicurian ato- struments for the city of Digne’s nine-
mism, Gassendi was then usually associated teenth-century lycées and (2) in collecting
with heresies commited by eighteenth- and today what is left of them after they had
nineteenth-century sensualists and material- been decommissioned (so to speak) a cen-
ists, people like La Mettrie, Helvetius and tury ago.
d’Holbach. Not only was Gassendi’s name For the past 400 years, Gassendi has
cleared of any religious heterodoxy by his meant to Provence what Descartes has
nineteenth-century fellow Provençals, its re- stood for Paris: a symbol of cultural distinc-
habilitation also provided an archetypal ex- tion and intellectual accomplishments. As
ample that science and catholicism could one observer remarked in the past, ‘‘Digne
fruitfully coexist. n’est pas une ville pour les Cartésiens’’
Local pride and ideological interest (p. 42) The Musée de Digne’s new designa-
groups thus found in Gassendi an ideal tion, and its eagerness to spread local scien-
and influential patron. Known mostly to a tific accomplishments, is simply the most
few scholars and regional patriots, however, recent acknowledgment of a long and
Gassendi had to wait the second half of the proud Provençal tradition. This book
nineteenth century to actually see his name should remind everyone what the weight
take a new popular and more powerful of a famous historic name, when used ap-
meaning. His spirit was clearly present propriately, can accomplish in establishing,
when the Société scientifique et littéraire supporting, and ultimately saving the scien-
was established in 1878, which was to a tific legacy of a region, or a whole nation for
large extent responsible for the creation of that matter.
the Musée de Digne in 1889. Less than a JEAN-FRANÇOIS GAUVIN

Interessi correlati