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The Politics of Networks

The Politics of Networks : Collective Advocacy and Research, the case of the Academia Naturae Curiosorum, 1652-1769

Project planned by Prof. Dr. Kärin Nickelsen

The history of the Academia Naturae Curiosorum affords an outstanding opportunity to investigate the interplay between the new natural sciences of the 17th century, forms of social organization, and the exercise of political influence.

Like many other scientific societies and academies, the Academia Naturae Curiosorum was formed in the 17th century. Founded in 1652 in the imperial city of Schweinfurt, the goal of the academy was, according to its statutes, the “promotion of the healing arts, especially pharmacology,” within the framework of a new form of cooperatively organized investigation of nature. The academy’s affiliations did not remain limited to its local context, but extended out across the entire Res publica literaria medica. In 1670 came an additional element, one of the first ever scientific journals; while the correspondence network of the academy developed into an increasingly goal-oriented establishment.

This projects focuses in particular on the new “Persona Scientifica” that gained prominence in this context: the naturalist-physician, who, as town physician, performed a wide variety of functions for the commonwealth, as personal physician to the prince, operated near the center of power, and as curious researcher, assembled and independently generated beneficial knowledge about nature. The central premise is that the history of this academy, allows one to deduce not only the agenda of the actors but also the methods they practiced, particularly in their political networking. This will be investigated in relation to two main foci. On the one hand, the project investigates the relatively successful self-advocacy of the Academici curiosi, in so far as the academy succeeded in securing the status of Imperial State Academy in 1687; on the other hand, and complementary to this, the working practices of the academy are analyzed, in their, sometimes more, sometimes less, successful efforts at collective investigations of the particular objects of nature.

This projects is pursued in close cooperation with the Leopoldina National Academy of Sciences (Arbeitsgruppe zur Genese der Frühmodernen Gelehrtenrepublik der Sektion Wissenschafts- / Medizingeschichte) as well as the DFG Research Group 1986: Natur in politischen Ordnungsentwürfen: Antike – Mittelalter – Frühe Neuzeit.



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