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Le Collège de France. Five centuries of research (English Edition)

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179 pages
As a haven for open discussion and investigation, the Collège de France has a special place in the academic world, both in France and abroad. Always in step with the evolution of knowledge, the institution has nonetheless remained true to the spirit of freedom and independence that has characterized it since it was founded in 1530. Over the years, its professors have brought this monument of knowledge into being ; today, three of them have tackled the task of recounting its past and recording its present.
Antoine Compagnon, Pierre Corvol and John Scheid provide a behind-the-scenes view of a unique institution that continues to combine tradition and modernity.
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F I V E C E N T U R I E S O F R E S E A R C H
àLLIMàRDÇOLLÈEDEfRàNçE
F I V E C E N T U R I E S O F R E S E A R C H
THIS BOOK WAS MADE POSSI BLE WITH SUPPORT FROM THE FONDATION HUGOT DU COLLÈGE DE FRANCE AND THE FONDATION DU COLLÈGE DE FRANCE
F I V E C E N T U R I E S O F R E S E A R C H
ANTOI NE COMPAGNON, PI ERRE CORVOL AND JOHN SCHEI D I N COLLABORATION WITH CÉLI NE SURPRENANT
/ Gallimard
Collège de France
The Collège de France holds a unique position in the world of French and international academics. Its originality lies in part with its tradition of perpetual innovation. Chairs are not renewed automatically in a given îeld of research, but appear and disappear as the sciences and knowledge evolve, dependent not on trends, but on far-reaching developments in the various îelds. The institution has survived throughout the successive regimes that have ruled France, changing its name and adapting the structure and mode of governance to circumstances, while remaining true to the spirit that inspired its creation. If we were to deîne this spirit in just two words, they would be freedom and collegiality. Freedom, in terms of determining the îelds of knowledge taught, which are not bound by any curriculum, provided that each professor change his or her lecture series every year. This freedom also extends to the auditors, who attend only if the lectures provide them with what they are seeking. This is a daunting challenge for professors, who ideally must be able to inspire interest in their îeld among the general public, while providing experts with the latest advances in their research. Collegiality—part of the very name of the institution—is reected in its singular mode of governance. Decisions concerning the Chairs and the lecture series are made by the entire Faculty, which includes experts in every literary and scientiîc discipline. The diversity of viewpoints exchanged in the open and intense discussions—which have continued unchecked throughout its history—is one of the Collège de France’s fundamental assets. Despite the meddling that occurred when the government insinuated itself into the selection of professors and suppressed Chairs during the Ancien Régime, the Second Empire and the Occupation, freedom and collegiality ultimately triumphed, and the institution upheld these values, while adapting to a changing environment. One of these recent develop-ments involves an international outreach by the Collège de France with the dissemination of lecture series and symposia on the Internet, both
in French and in translation, primarily English. Another is the growing (although still insufîcient) number of women named to lecture here. This book offers an overview of the rich and turbulent history of the Collège de France and the major îgures who have taught here. It does not claim to examine all the knowledge explored at the Collège, nor present all the scholars from the past. Rather, the professors lecturing today, the auditors who attend regularly or occasionally, and the far greater number of people who do not know the Collège de France will discover in it previously unpublished documents, as well as interesting and unusual information about an institution combining tradition and modernity, unlike any other in the world.
S E R G E HAR O C H E Administrator of the Collège de France February 2015
PREFACE
CONTENTS
Introduction 914Uneven beginnings 28changeA tradition of 46From a language school  to scientiîc laboratories 90Adapting to the modern age 120The Collège de France buildings and grounds The Collège de France today 136
Bibliography 162Administrators since 1800 164166Index
Globe by Léonce Élie de Beaumont, ca. 1851.