Saturday, June 13, 2009


Oddly named people: Théophraste Renaudot

I ran across the name of Théophraste Renaudot a while ago, during a visit to the Newseum in Washington, DC. Monsieur Renaudot seens to have had an interesting career during the first half of the seventeenth century. According to his Wikipedia entry, he was a physician, a pawnshop owner, a historian, and a publisher.

But what got him into the Newseum is his status as the father of the newspaper: in 1631, he established La Gazette, the first weekly printed newspaper.

From 1633 to 1642, M Renaudot ran public conferences on topics of interest, and published proceedings. In her book Making Science Social, Kathleen Wellman gives us a sense of those conferences, and of the popular scientific culture of the time. From the blurb from the book:

Between 1633 and 1642, the French physician and philanthropist Théophraste Renaudot sponsored a series of public conferences in Paris. These conferences offered an open forum for wide-ranging discussions of a variety of topics, including science, medicine, gender, politics, and ethics. No matter the topic, participants consistently used scientific reasoning as a new standard of evidence. The conferences thus recast the rhetorical traditions of the Renaissance and prefigured the social sciences of the Enlightenment. They provide a candid snapshot of intellectual life at the dawn of the scientific revolution in France.

Interesting man, Théophraste Renaudot.

[And speaking of the Newseum, my favourite item at the Newseum web site is their Front Pages page.]

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