Teaching sciences during the 18th century: an education in experiment and reasoning

  • XVII IOSTE SYMPOSIUM Science and Technology Education for a P IOSTE


In the 18th century, colleges or boarding schools are kept by the Jesuits, the Oratorians or the Brothers of the Christian Schools; they are places of spreading of a scientific and technical culture to train the ruling classes of the Absolute monarchy. The scientific training needs the learning of a scientific method based on experiment and reasoning. When the Jesuit Noël Regnault writes Les Entretiens physiques d’Ariste et d’Eudoxe, in fact he drafts passages of his lessons marked by the Jesuit pedagogy: the highlighting of experimental facts, especially in physics, the rigor of reasoning. Rigor and method are important, but the experiment is first; that is a question of questioning the nature, of knowing its secrets; this experimental method is very present in the lessons and in the works of the Jesuit Fathers, but also in the Oratorians. At the end of the century, in a course intended for the training of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, Brother Paschal will insist on the analysis and the synthesis as essential components of any scientific reasoning. We thus end on the scientific emergence of teaching methods in the 18th century. Does it send back to a prescientific culture today disappeared? Has the art to teach the sciences in colleges in the 18th century another interest for an epistemological viewpoint on scientific education today?

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