Gillispie, Charles C. 1918–

views updated

Gillispie, Charles C. 1918–

(Charles Coulston Gillispie)

PERSONAL:

Born August 6, 1918, in Harrisburg, PA; son of Raymond Livingston and Virginia Lambert Gillispie; married Emily Ramsdell Clapp, January 29, 1949. Education: Wesleyan University, A.B., 1940, M.A., 1942; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduate study, 1940-41; Harvard University, Ph.D., 1949.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Department of History, Princeton University, 129 Dickinson Hall, Princeton NJ 08544-1017. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, teaching fellow and history tutor, 1946-47; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, instructor, 1947-50, assistant professor, 1950-56, associate professor, 1956-59, professor of the history of science, 1959-67, Shelby Cullom Davis professor of European history, 1967-73, Dayton-Stockton Professor of the History of Science, 1973-87, professor emeritus, 1987—, director of program in history and philosophy of science, 1960-66, chairman of department of history, 1971-73. Weizmann Institute, Israel, A.J. Balfour Professor of the History of Science, 1972; associate director of studies, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France, 1980-85; chair of history of sciences, Fondation de France, 1980-85. Military service: U.S. Army, Chemical Warfare Service, Company A. platoon leader and company commander, 1942-46; became captain.

MEMBER:

History of Science Society (council, 1952-55, 1959-60; vice president, 1960-64; president, 1964-66), American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Academie Internationale d'Histoire des Science (vice-president, 1965-68), American Philosophical Society, British Academy, Sigma Xi, Phi Beta Kappa.

AWARDS, HONORS:

American Council of Learned Societies fellow, 1951-52; Guggenheim fellow, 1954-55, 1970-71; National Science Foundation fellow, 1958-59, 1962-63; Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences fellow, 1970-71; D.Sc., Ordre des Palmes Académiques, 1989; Balzan Prize, History and Philosophy of Science, 1997; honorary fellow, Worcester College, Oxford University. Recipient of honorary degrees from Wesleyan University, 1971, and Lafayette College, 2001.

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION

Genesis and Geology: A Study in the Relations of Scientific Thought, Natural Theology, and Social Opinion in Great Britain, 1790-1850, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1951, reprinted with a new preface by the author, 1996.

(Editor and author of introduction) A Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia of Trades and Industry: Manufacturing and the Technical Arts in Plates Selected from "L'Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts, et des méiers" of Denis Diderot, two volumes, Dover Publications (New York, NY), 1959, reprinted, 1993.

The Edge of Objectivity: An Essay in the History of Scientific Ideas, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1960, with new preface by author, 1990.

Les Fondements intellectuels de l'introduction des probabilities en physique (conference address), Université de Paris Palais de la Découverte (Paris, France), 1963.

Lazare Carnot Savant (monograph), with a contribution by A.P. Youschkevitch, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1971.

Science and Polity in France at the End of the Old Regime, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1980, reprinted, 2004.

The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation, 1783-1784: With a Word on the Importance of Ballooning for the Science of Heat and the Art of Building Railroads, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1983.

(Editor, with Michel Dewachter) Monuments of Egypt: The Napoleonic Edition; The Complete Archaeological Plates from "La Description de l'Egypte," Princeton Architectural Press/The Architectural League of New York (Princeton, NJ), 1987.

Pierre-Simon Laplace, 1749-1827: A Life in Exact Science, with contributions by Robert Fox and Ivor Grattan-Guinness, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1997.

Science and Polity in France: The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Years, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2004.

Essays and Reviews in History and History of Science, American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, PA), 2007

Editor-in-chief of Dictionary of Scientific Biography, sixteen volumes, Scribner (New York, NY), 1970-80.

SIDELIGHTS:

Charles C. Gillispie has had a long career as a scholar of the history of science. He founded the undergraduate history of science program at Princeton University in 1956, and he has written extensively on the topic, particularly with regard to France. As a writer, he has won praise not only for the information he imparts about scientific milestones, but for putting these into cultural context and providing fleshed-out portraits of the scientists. He has "enjoyed a long, distinguished, and extremely productive career," Eric A. Arnold, Jr., noted when he critiqued Science and Polity in France: The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Years for History: Review of New Books. That volume, Arnold added, "is the capstone of a truly luminous career."

The book, covering the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, is a follow-up to Science and Polity in France at the End of the Old Regime. Gillispie seeks to show that the era was as significant in science as in politics, and that revolutionary leaders for the most part supported scientific advancement. He discusses such figures as Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, a chemist who discovered oxygen; Pierre-Simon Laplace, the astronomer who was the first to take note of the planet Saturn; mathematician Gaspard Monge; and Sophie Germain, a pioneer in mathematical physics. Along with individuals, Gillispie covers such developments as the creation of the metric system, the establishment of the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, the foundation of the École Polytechnique engineering school, and the advances in archaeology begun by scientists who accompanied Napoleon on his military campaign in Egypt.

Some critics considered the book to be a key work in its field. "This comprehensive account of the relations between science and revolutionary politics will be essential for serious students of French history and the history of science in the modern world," commented Historian reviewer Jeremy D. Popkin. Arnold called it "an absolute must for graduate students, faculty, and amateurs of both the Revolutionary and Napoleonic years." In addition to complimenting his research, which includes a wide range of primary and secondary sources, several critics had positive words for his prose style and his sympathetic approach. Colin Jones, a contributor to French Politics, Culture and Society, remarked that Gillispie "is a brilliant writer who has a distinctive and eloquent style, full of character and brio, and he enjoys the happy knack for the right (if sometimes unusual) word." This work and its predecessor, related Jed Z. Buchwald in the American Scientist, not only "carry the reader into the heart of French science just before and after the revolution" but "paint gripping portraits of individuals." Jones added: "Gillispie's is a humane scholarship."

Another work on scientific pioneers in France, The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation, 1783-1784: With a Word on the Importance of Ballooning for the Science of Heat and the Art of Building Railroads, focuses on the brothers Joseph and Etienne de Montgolfier, who invented the hot-air balloon. Drawing on archival sources as well as documents recently made available by the brothers' descendants, he delves into their successes, their failures, and their contributions to other scientific and technological projects, such as Joseph's work with internal combustion engines. Like the Science and Polity volumes, this book brought Gillispie praise for his scholarship and his three-dimensional depictions of historical figures. Seymour L. Chapin, writing in Science, found that the author tells his story "not only with many new details but with frequent insights into social structures and personal motivations…. Gillispie has an eye for the dramatic, a flair for characterization, and a command of both the English and the French languages that enable him to entrance while informing the reader."

When asked what sparked his interest in writing, Gillispie told CA: "Readers interested in how someone who was trained as a chemist and chemical engineer before World War II became a historian of science after four years in the army may consult the introductory essay in my collection Essays and Reviews in History and History of Science. I there explain how six or seven members of the same generation with similar backgrounds came, at first independently of each other, to found the history of science as a subdiscipline of history. Our purpose was to exhibit the role of science as a significant shaping force in historical development no less than have been economics, politics, war, class relations, diplomacy, ideas and ideology, and religion.

"Of my books, the most general is The Edge of Objectivity: An Essay in the History of Scientific Ideas, which is a history of scientific ideas from Galileo to Einstein. This is written in narrative style and without footnotes. It is still in print. The earliest of my books, Genesis and Geology: A Study in the Relations of Scientific Thought, Natural Theology, and Social Opinion in Great Britain, 1790-1850, also still in print, is about an episode in the relation of science and religion.

"The two books on science and polity in France are the most detailed and intimate in the account of the interactions of science and politics at a critical juncture in history."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Historical Review, February, 1982, review of Science and Polity in France at the End of the Old Regime, p. 186; October, 1984, Tom D. Croch, review of The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation, 1783-1784: With a Word on the Importance of Ballooning for the Science of Heat and the Art of Building Railroads, p. 1052; April, 2005, Josef W. Konvitz, review of Science and Polity in France: The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Years, p. 562.

American Scientist, May, 1991, Philip Stewart, review of Monuments of Egypt: The Napoleonic Edition; The Complete Archaeological Plates from "La Description de l'Egypte," p. 264; March/April, 2005, Jed Z. Buchwald, "Revolutionary Science," p. 177.

Artforum International, December, 1988, Leon Golub, review of Monuments of Egypt, p. 110.

BJHS: The British Journal for the History of Science, June, 2000, P.M. Harman, review of Pierre-Simon Laplace, 1749-1827: A Life in Exact Science, p. 238; September, 2006, Pietro Corsi, review of Science and Polity in France: The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Years, p. 451.

Choice, September, 1998, H.K. Eichhorn, review of Pierre-Simon Laplace, 1749-1827, p. 153.

French Politics, Culture and Society, winter, 2006, Colin Jones, review of Science and Polity in France, p. 135.

Historian, summer, 2006, Jeremy D. Popkin, review of Science and Polity in France, p. 384.

History of Science, June, 2001, review of Pierre-Simon Laplace, 1749-1827, p. 252.

History: Review of New Books, winter, 2005, Eric A. Arnold, Jr., review of Science and Polity in France, p. 73.

Isis, June, 1992, Roger Hahn, review of Monuments of Egypt, p. 330; March, 1999, Lissa Roberts, review of Pierre-Simon Laplace, 1749-1827, p. 119; December, 2005, Roger Hahn, review of Science and Polity in France, p. 652.

Journal of Modern History, September, 2006, Jessica Riskin, review of Science and Polity in France, p. 722.

Library Journal, June 15, 1983, review of The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation, 1783-1784, p. 1268.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 25, 1983, Bart Everett, review of The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation, 1783-1784, p. 8.

Nature, February 26, 1998, review of Pierre-Simon Laplace, 1749-1827, p. 855; November 4, 2004, Bruno Belhoste, review of Science and Polity in France, p. 17.

New Scientist, February 28, 1998, review of Pierre-Simon Laplace, 1749-1827, p. 45.

New Yorker, July 25, 1983, Jeremy Bernstein, review of The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation, 1783-1784, p. 84.

New York Review of Books, November 10, 1983, J.H. Plumb, review of The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation, 1783-1784, p. 24; May 26, 2005, "The Scientific Takeover," p. 39; May 26, 2005, P.N. Furbank, review of Science and Polity in France at the End of the Old Regime, pp. 39-40.

New York Times, March 4, 1980, John Noble Wilford, review of Dictionary of Scientific Biography, p. 2.

New York Times Book Review, August 31, 1980, Stephen Jay Gould, review of Dictionary of Scientific Biography, p. 6; July 24, 1983, Geoffrey C. Ward, review of The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation, 1783-1784, p. 6.

Quarterly Review of Biology, September, 1999, Elizabeth Garber, review of Pierre-Simon Laplace, 1749-1827, p. 331.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 1993, review of A Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia of Trades and Industry: Manufacturing and the Technical Arts in Plates Selected from "L'Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts, et des méiers" of Denis Diderot, p. 49.

Rq, fall, 1985, review of Dictionary of Scientific Biography.

Science, January 16, 1981, John Walsh, review of Dictionary of Scientific Biography, p. 263; October 2, 1981, Keith Michael Baker, review of Science and Polity in France at the End of the Old Regime, p. 54; August 5, 1983, Seymour L. Chapin, review of The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation, 1783-1784, p. 542; September 30, 2005, "An Old Approach to a Revolutionary Regime," p. 2168.

Science Digest, April, 1983, Ashley Montagu, review of Dictionary of Scientific Biography, p. 98.

Scientific American, August, 1980, Philip Morrison, review of Dictionary of Scientific Biography, p. 35.

SciTech Book News, June, 1993, review of A Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia of Trades and Industry (volume two), p. 30; September, 2007, review of Essays and Reviews in History and History of Science.

Smithsonian, November, 1989, Frank Getlein, review of Monuments of Egypt, p. 240.

Technology and Culture, October, 2005, "Masterwork Completed," p. 813.

Wall Street Journal, February 19, 1998, Jim Holt, review of Pierre-Simon Laplace, 1749-1827, p. 20.

ONLINE

Princeton University Web site,http://www.princeton.edu/ (February 14, 2008), brief biography.