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Training links and transmission of knowledge in 18th Century botany: a social network analysis

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Author(s): René Sigrist | Eric D. Widmer

Journal: REDES : Revista Hispana para el Análisis de Redes Sociales
ISSN 1579-0185

Volume: 21;
Start page: 7e;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: history of botany - 18th century - training links - national schools

ABSTRACT
This contribution develops a social network approach to the training of European botanists in the 18th century. In a period when the study of plants increasingly became an autonomous field of research, the practice of botany and related sciences mobilized a very diverse group of actors. For many of them, initiation to the science of plants was part of their medical studies. Others were trained as collaborators with an outstanding scholar in the context of a royal garden or elsewhere, sometimes also in philosophy colleges or faculties. Still others were self-taught. To the extent that biographical data were available, we made a systematic census of the masters and disciples of a set of 928 Western botanists active between 1700 and 1830. Three subsets were thus identified, each of them showing distinct characteristics and developmental patterns. The specific features of these subsets are discussed in a historical perspective, with a particular attention to the various institutional contexts which produced them. The data analysis basically shows the growing autonomy of botany with regard to medical training, as well as the increasingly national character of the dominant schools, at least in France.
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