A short history of the Academy from 1974 to 2005

Since the lamented P. Costabel, as fifth Permanent Secretary of the Academy, wrote these lines, the Academy has held its General Assemblies every four years, following the rhythm of the International Congresses of the History of Science now fixed by the Division of History of Science : after the Assembly at Edinburgh in 1977 there were those of Bucharest (1981), Berkeley (1985), Hamburg-with-Munich (1989), Zaragoza (1993), Liège (1997), and Mexico (2001). We await that at Bejing (2005). The President and Council have changed on each occasion : Rupert Hall, Mirko Grmek, Olaf Pedersen, Vincenzo Cappelletti, William Shea, and (at present) John Heilbron have presided over the Academy. After the retirement of P. Costabel in 1983 the functions of the Permanent Secretary passed to John North and, when he in turn resigned in 1989, Jacques Roger was elected to this office. Because he died prematurely in March 1990 Emmanuel Poulle was elected in his place.
Recognising the development of the history of science as a discipline which covers more and more varied fields and whose exponents become more and more numerous and scattered about the world, the Academy has adopted a (now fulfilled) programme to increase the number of its members and agreed a formal procedure for the election of new members every two years. It has further decided to award both the Koyré Medal and the prize for young historians founded in 1968 every two years, and not only in those years in which a General Assembly takes place.
It can scarcely be said that the difficulties faced by the Officers of the Academy have grown less during the last twenty-five years, than they were in the years described by P. Costabel. Thanks to his generosity and that of others the series of Travaux has been pursued and extended, and the diligence of the editors of the Archives has notably increased the number of its fascicules. Until 1985 the editorship of this journal was combined with the Permanent Secretaryship ; at that time, to relieve John North's burden, the duties of the Permanent Secretary and the editor were separated and the latter were entrusted to Robert Halleux. Meanwhile, the deaths in 1981 (not far removed in time) of both Professor Hartner and his friend, who was for so long the Maecenas of the Academy, were not only sad events in themselves but created a situation of crisis. Fortunately, the Academy's friends in Italy made proposals wich have revealed themselves as both beneficial and dynamic. The Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana has guaranteed, for almost twenty years now, the publication of the Archives, which thus find again at Rome the safe haven enjoyed by the Society's first journal, in the time of Aldo Mieli.
During the decade in which he carried out the duties of the Administrative Secretary, M. Grmek, who died recently, managed with skill the difficult finances of the Academy and put its archives in order. These archives are a body of documents containing the history of the Academy and therefore (in part) of our profession ; they were preserved with the Society’s library, at its traditional seat, 12 rue Colbert, Paris, in the fine salon that was once Mme de Lambert’s, but which we have just left under circumstances which will be explained below. The Academy’s archives and library will be kept temporarily at the Centre for History of Science and Technology of Liège, where a room is at our disposal before a suitable solution can be found. Since none of the Academy’s officers lived in Paris after the end of M. Grmek’s term of office, the Council of the Academy was increased by the creation of the post of Archivist, with the duty of assisting the Permanent Secretary as the Assistant Secretary or the Administrative Secretary had done in the past, and more particularly of taking charge of the archives and library of the Academy. To this office was appointed E. Poulle, until his election as Permanent Secretary. Then, as the latter was again a Parisian, R. Halleux was assigned the post of Archivist. As a result, the Academy’s secretarial office is now working along two poles - Paris and Liège - in a very satisfactory way. At the time of the General Assembly at Hamburg in 1989, the Council was further enlarged by a Treasurer, an office entrusted to Eberhard Knobloch. At the Mexico General Assembly of 2001, this task again became the responsibility of the Permanent Secretary.
Previous editions of this directory made clear thatthe establishment of the Academy in the ancient Hôtel de Nevers was precarious and its fate uncertain. This situation is now resolved. Because of the poor condition of the building in rue Colbert, the administration in charge asked us, in fall 2000, to leave the premises. The Academy accordingly moved its archives and library to Liège, and its registered office to the Ecole des Chartes in Paris, where we received a warm welcome. The Ecole des Chartes being a particularly prestigious institution of higher education, its welcome offered the Academy some consolation for its regret in leaving the place where it had started its life seventy years ago .
On the other hand, the Academy was and is a private unofficial body intended to carry out certain functions within a certain tradition of learning. The academic context in which the Academy operates is vastly different from that still within living memory - this is in part what we mean by the ‘professionalisation’ of the history of science. And the tradition of learning itself is vastly different : gentle polymathy is no longer in fashion.
This being said, the best hope for the Academy in the future seems to lie in the enthusiasm of its younger members for their profession, for the international movement in the history of science, and for the Academy as a realisation of these. P. Costabel was surely right to say that the Academy will revive with each new generation.