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The "Republic of Scientists" and the highways of European Scientific Communication in Galileo's age

Final Activity Report Summary - HIGHWAYS OF SCIENCE (The "Republic of Scientists" and the Highways of European Scientific Communication in Galileo's Age)

The HIGHWAYS OF SCIENCE project aimed at using electronic resources in order to on-line publish an accurate map of the network constituting the 'republique des lettres' in the age of the so called 'scientific revolution'. It also aimed at constructing a prototype of a multitask user friendly database, that would take into account evidence gathered from scientific and observed correspondences so as to define and highlight the contents, the networks and the ways of transmission of cultural and scientific information in early modern Europe. The beneficiary's attendance at the centre A. Koyré in Paris aimed at providing her an advanced training and adding to her previous experience different and complementary scientific competencies.

The project goals were approached through the following different paths:
1. Via the construction of a database that was a thick repository of information concerning the numerous people, institutions, marketplaces, works, specimens and objects that crowded the European 'republic of science' in the first half of the 17th century. This repository gathered both letters from scientific correspondences and information picked up from them. The letters - printed, electronically edited or still manuscript - were written or received by both some of the 'major' natural philosophers and culture 'brokers' of the time, as well as by some 'minor' and more 'peripheral' contemporary educated men. The letters, concerning the period ca 1625-40, particularly along the axis Italy-France, were filed, transcribed and, when possible, equipped with an optical version. The system allowed for querying information from the database concerning the date, senders, places of origin, addressees, places of destination, people other than sender and addressee, institutions quoted ( e.g. universities, academies, colleges, religious orders, academies), works and objects (either quoted, attached or transmitted) and, finally, crossing references. Historical, bibliographical and analytical 'fiches' were worded for each of the entries classified in the database. Indexes were drawn up starting from the describer fields, so as to make each of them an access key for querying. Thesauruses were listed to orientate the users. As a 'static' repository, the database already offered to the researchers in the fields of social history and history of science a good sample so as to start a whole reliable study on the 'learned man or scientist' at the beginning of scientific modernity, as well as enough sources to begin a serious reflection on the public character of science during Galileo's age.

2. Via the development of a software platform, which was still under construction, to be put on the 'Centre de Recherche en Histoire des Sciences et Techniques en ligne' (CRHSR) website, that would allow users to easily interrogate the database and to get back information concerning the scientific networks that existed in the 17th century Europe. We worked at the construction of the prototype of a consulting interface, whose main environment would be a geographical map. Through this map it would be possible to visualise the relations' networks and the flow of scientific information that was communicated through them. These networks and flows would be generated starting from the simple or combined index terms of the database. Aiming to skip the legal restrictions we faced in externalising the sources on the web, we located the projected platform in the Web2 resources system, based on the on-line application and the interaction with users, and we turned it into a blog of all scientific correspondences we worked on. In order to achieve this further aim, we improved and expanded the HIGHWAYS OF SCIENCE project into a new project, called 'Eastways of Science' which was successfully submitted to the European Commission under the 'Marie Curie Actions European Reintegration Grant Programme' (Call identifier: FP7-PEOPLE-2007-2-2-ERG - Proposal N° 224895 - starting date: 2008.07.01). The technology employed by the latter initiative meant to exploit the most updated technological resources in the fields of data management, information and communication (ICT).

3. through the promotion and launching of other related databases.