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Doctoral studies > PhD dissertations UAB

Carles Puig Pla
Física, tècnica i Il·lustració a Catalunya. La cultura de la utilitat: assimilar, divulgar, aprofitar
Supervisor/s: Antoni Roca Rosell
Date of defense: 18-07-2006

The main objective of this doctoral thesis consist of analyzing how they began, formalized and developed the first public scientific-technical teaching related to physics, which was established in Catalonia at the end of the 18th century and the beginnings of the 19th century. It studies the institutionalization of the public training of nautical astronomy, mechanics, machinery and experimental physics in four schools created by the Junta de Comerç (Board of Commerce) of Catalonia.

In addition, this work locates the role played by craftsmen in the construction of the first scientific machines and instruments, as well as their collaboration with Catalan scientists during the Enlightenment. A first approach to the physical-mathematics sections of the Royal Academy of Natural Sciences and Arts of Barcelona has been made. The group consisting of “the artists” of this institution in the period 1766-1824 has been identified and characterized.

A great part of this work has been based on unpublished manuscripts. They have allowed us to evaluate the role played by minor scientists in Catalan scientific activity.

The work has been structured in six chapters apart from the last one of conclusions. In the first chapter, apart from the methodological considerations, an analysis of the concepts "physical", "mathematics" and "art" takes place; also a study on the historiography of physics and instrumentation in Catalonia and Spain is made. The second chapter is a historiographical revision related to the institutions of scientist-technique training in Catalonia where, during the Enlightenment, it was proved to introduce modern physics.

The third chapter is dedicated to the Academy of Sciences and Arts. On the one hand, a first identification of the members and memories of physics-mathematics sections is obtained, and the intellectual interests of them are characterized. On the other hand, a study of the activity of the academic artists and their collaboration with the Academy is carried out; particular attention is dedicated to the artists who belonged to the group of the "machinists" whose members contributed to the manufacture and conservation of the instrumental tools of the corporation.

The three following chapters are dedicated to the study of four gratuitous schools established by the Junta, promoter of modern technology training in Catalonia. Thus, the fourth chapter deals with the Navigation school and, especially, with the contributions of Agustí Canelles who was interested in mathematical and astronomical training of pilots with the purpose of obtaining scientific navigation. The fifth chapter deals with the actions undertaken by the Junta to facilitate the knowledge of mechanics and the improvement of machinery in Catalonia during the first half of the 19th century. It describes the working of the Machines Cabinet of the Llotja by Gaietà Faralt, and also the activity of the Mechanics school, directed by Francesc Santponç, as well as the School of Machinery of Hilarión Bordeje. The contents of the technical review Memorias de Agricultura y Artes, especially those related to Mechanics, are also analyzed in detail. Finally, in chapter six an analysis of the different stages of the School of experimental Physics their teachers (Vieta, Safont, Agell, Rave and Balcells), the texts, the experiments, the instruments and laboratory material takes place. It is shown that there was a social recognition of physics and also that the students of this School played a significant role in the scientific and cultural world in the mid 19th century in Catalonia and Spain.