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Diderot's and d'Alembert's encylopédie: Integration of science and technology

Subjects: French

Hydraulics

Integration of science and technology - an impossible quest?

The great range of crafts described in the Encyclopédie underlines one of the purposes of the project which was to integrate science and technology. There was in the eighteenth century a belief in the power of scientific thought and knowledge. It was thought that technology could be improved by integration with science.

The work of Bacon and Newton was very influential on the contributors to the Encyclopédie. There were two aspects of Newton's thought: there was the abstract and theoretical for which D’Alembert had an affinity and there was also the tradition of experience and observation which appealed more to Diderot.

Abstract and theoretical Newtonian ideas could be applied to a science like hydraulics which is accordingly placed under Mathematics in the Encyclopédie. An early steam-engine is depicted in one of the plates. However, science had little to offer to a technology.such as the work of a gunsmith. Dying and bleaching could potentially have been improved by science but the processes were so complex that contemporary science could be of little help.

Steam engine

Abstract and theoretical Newtonian ideas could be applied to a science like hydraulics which is accordingly placed under Mathematics in the Encyclopédie. An early steam-engine is depicted in one of the plates.