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No. 10, June 1997
Dissertations recently completed


Hans Buhl


No. 13 - Dec 2000 (PDF)

No. 12 - Sep 1999

No. 11 - May 1998

No. 10 - Jun 1997


Hans Buhl

The Arc Transmitter - a Comparative Study of the Invention, Development and Innovation of the Poulsen System in Denmark, England and the United States (353 pp., Aarhus, 1995) [in Danish with an English summary]

This study deals with the development of the arc transmitter - the first electronic transmitter for continuous radio waves. It was invented by the Danish engineer Valdemar Poulsen in 1902. After a few years of development arc technology was transferred to several European countries as well as the United States. The subsequent development of the arc varied remarkably from country to country. Especially in the United States it was innovated into a prominent communication system, whereas it was a moderate failure in Denmark. Most of the dissertation is devoted to analysis and comparison of the development in Denmark and the United States in search of possible reasons for the substantial differences in success. It turns out that there were important differences in the legal, economic and geographical conditions. But it also was of crucial importance that the American arc innovators were much better system builders than Poulsen and his colleagues. They responded better to market conditions and had a strong sense of the system nature of communication technologies.

Address: Hans Buhl, The Steno Museum (The Danish Museum for the History of Science and Medicine), C.F. Møllers Alle, University Park, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. Phone: +45 8942 3992, Fax: +45 8942 3995, E-mail:


Veronica Gavagna

The scientific works of Paolo Casati (1617-1707)

The historical reconstruction of science in late 17th-century Italy has become particularly important because of the lack of attention that this period has received from traditional historiography, which has labelled the period between Galileo and the early 18th century as a period of decadence for Italian science.

The purpose of this dissertation has been to define the role played by the Jesuit scientist Paolo Casati in 17th-century science. Casati belonged to the jesuit scientific school founded in the Provincia Veneta by G. Biancani, and represented later by N. Cabeo, N. Zucchi, G.B. Riccioli and F.M. Grimaldi. Until recently Casati was known essentially for his diplomatic activity, especially for his support of Queen Christine's conversion to catholicism. Actually, Casati's career as a scientist was strongly influeced by the growing role he played in the Jesuit College in Parma. By exploring published works, manuscripts and correspondence, we realize, however, that Casati represented Jesuit science very well: his scientific production links theological preoccupations, metaphysical reflections and revolutionary scientific changes.

Detailed study is devoted to two juvenile productions: Vacuum proscriptum (1649) and Terra machinis mota (1658). The first one deals with the famous vacuum debate, raised by Torricelli's experiment in 1643. Casati confuted the existence of both vacuum and atmospheric pressure, trying to use scientific proofs. when he wasn't able to sustain his arguments on physical grounds, he asked for help from Aristotelian philosophy and catholic religion. Terra Machinis Mota is a dialogue between the Jesuit mathematician Paul Guldin, the famous Friar Marin Mersenne, and Galileo Galilei, about the Archimedean idea of lifting the Earth by a suitable instrument. Many different topics are dealt with in this work: the determination of the Earth's dimensions, an explanation of capillarity phenomena, the description of some experiences on vacuum made by Otto Von Guericke in 1654 and some considerations about floating bodies. Besides, the role played by Galileo in this book deserves particular attention, because it is unusual to find a positive representation of Galileo in a jesuit work, only 25 years after Galileo's condemnation.

Other works are analysed in this study, such as Fabrica et uso del compasso di proportione (1664), a work explaining the construction and use of proportional compasses; Le ceneri dell'Olimpo ventilate (1673), a dialogue about meteorology, and two unpublished manuscripts: De gli horologi solari, about sun-dial construction, and Exercitationes matheseos candidatis exhibitaæ (1698), a collection of algebraical and geometrical subjects.

The last section is devoted to published and unpublished corrispondence (1642-1695) between Paolo Casati and the famous florentine librarian Antonio Magliabechi, and other scientists like Carlo Rinaldini, Gian Antonio Rocca and Daniello Bartoli.

Address: Veronica Gavagna,
Via della Rondinella 34, 50135 Florence.


Viviane M. Quirke

Co-operation in war and peace: academic scientists and the pharmaceutical industry in Britain and in France, 1935-1955

The thesis compares the interaction between academic scientists and pharmaceutical firms in Britain and France before, during and after the Second World War. Although it deals to a certain extent with Franco-British co-operation, it focuses mainly on the co-operation between science and industry at a national level, in the context of wartime mobilization and post-war reconstruction. The comparative perspective makes it possible to raise questions about the conditions which make the science-industry interaction possible, in this case the relative development of the biomedical sciences and the pharmaceutical industry in the two countries. Because the experience of the Second World War was so different for Britain and for France, the role of the historical context of innovations is a recurrent theme of this study.

The work is presented in three parts. Part One discusses the institutional development of the biomedical sciences and the research facilities available to the pharmaceutical industry in Britain and France over the period, with a brief comparison between the two. Part Two follows the development of co-operative research before, during and after the Second World War. In Frace, the relationship between the Pasteur Institute and Rhône-Poulenc is the main object of study. In Britain, it is the interaction between the Medical Research Council and the group of `reputable' firms which later formed the Therapeutic Research Corporation. Part Three is a case study: it focuses on one innovation, Penicillin, and analyses its impact on the attitudes to co-operation between science and industry in the two countries. It links this change in attitudes with the post-war context of the creation of the National Health Service in Britain and the Sécurité Sociale in France. The role of the innovation process in providing an experience in collaboration which informs academic, industrial, but also governmental decisions about research is an important theme in this third section.

Address: Viviane M. Quirke, St Antony's College, Woodstock road, Oxford.