Systematizing the Arts and Sciences in the Enlightenment

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The eve of the Enlightenment

Des Connoissances Humaines

The Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers was published under the direction of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert between 1751 and 1772.

With 74,000 articles written by more than 130 contributors, Diderot’s encyclopedia served as a massive reference work for the arts and sciences.  It classified learning and human activity in ways that made sense of generations of human invention, culminating in the ideas and ideals of the late 18th century French Enlightenment.

Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers

Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers

1777-79

The Encyclopédie depicted surgical techniques and instruments, seen in this illustration of trephination, used to treat head injuries.  While during the late eigheenth century, laudenum, derived from opium, and other herbals remedies could be employed to reduce pain, the use of ether as an anesthetic would not be discovered until the mid-nineteenth century.

The section of the Encyclopédie focused on surgery includes papers by Antoine Louis, the French surgeon and professor of physiology who built the first prototype for the guillotine on the eve of the French Revolution.

Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers

Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers

   1777-79

Diderot's and d'Alembert's Encyclopédie also included writings and engravings focused on astronomy. Engraver Robert Bénard charts the phases of the moon and maps its surface.  Bénard also illustrates an armillary sphere (an astrolabe or model of the Copernican solar system, figure 21), celestial positioning, and a comet (figure 25), all visually echoing the varied artistic conceptions of the solar system explored by Aristotle, Sacro Bosco, Copernicus, and Galileo (preceding pages). 

Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers

Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers

   1777-79

Bénard also features a celestial map (below, left) including the stars and constellations of the northern and southern hemispheres.

Systematizing the Arts and Sciences in the Enlightenment