A short history of the Academy from 1940 to 1974

If the Academy, in accordance with what had been worked for from the start, had had as its basis a group of eminent scholars bound together by deep friendship, it could not continue to exist as a cultural republic without a directing force. The weaknesses in the structure (as indicated above) which Aldo Mieli had not foreseen sufficiently, or guarded against, should not lead one to forget what he gave, continuously and desperately, in order that the work might go on.
He pursued his task during the World War. After taking up residence in Argentina from 1940 onwards, Mieli strove to enable academic publication to survive in the form of his journal Archeion and to maintain his links with other scholars by correspondence. At the end of hostilities the state of his health did not allow him to return to Europe so that the responsibility for reconstructing the Academy fell entirely upon its Swiss President, Arnold Raymond (1874-1958). Certainly he was helped by being a citizen of a neutral state, but more important was the common ideal animating the majority of the surviving members. These celebrated their restored fortunes at Lausanne in October 1947 at the assembly of the Fifth International Congress of the History of Science, and one month later there appeared the first number of the Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences - Nouvelle série d’Archeion, signifying the renaissance of the Academy.
Meanwhile, the organisation of international collaboration within all cultural fields had just been launched in a movement of great scope with the foundation of UNESCO, and it was at the same Lausanne Congress that there was held the first meeting of a new institution, the International Union of the History of Science, intended to group together national committees recognised by their respective states, and itself a member of a general organism, ICSU. This International Union in effect realised what the pre-war International Committee of the History of Science had attempted to establish alongside the Academy : corporate bodies, distinct from individual persons and rationally administered.
Yet the meetings at Lausanne took trouble to signify a certain attachment to the past. For a few years the Academy, whose growth and whose responsibility for the new publication of the Archives internationales d'histoire des sciences had increased its need for regular funding, found in the grants made by UNESCO the necessary support for its existence. But at the end of 1954 the death of Pierre Sergescu, former Rector of the Polytechnic of Bucharest, who had been at one and the same time the second Permanent Secretary of the Academy and the Secretary-General of the Union, made it impossible to escape any longer the difficulties that the union of powers in the hands of one man had concealed. Pierre Sergescu, a political refugee since 1950, had certainly been assisted in his admirable activity by the fact of his double office, but the extent to which he had devoted to his work, his own resources and his own wealth, had been unknown. He left behind him a situation that could not be prolonged into the future. To the extent that the International Union alone was master of a regular funding, it was inevitable that a certain number of activities should be transferred to the younger organisation which had hitherto taken place under the name and under the patronage of the Academy.
This transfer was progressive. The scholarly authority of the third Permanent Secretary, Alexandre Koyré, and the presence of a certain number of eminent Members of the Academy of the founding generation, prevented the transfer from having the appearance of a breach. The Secretary-General of the Union, which had by now become The Division of the History of Science of the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science, continued to support for administrative purposes the Permanent Secretary of the Academy by giving him the title of Assistant Secretary of the Union, and the Academy for some time preserved a privileged position among the Societies of individuals receiving the recognition of ICSU. It was recognised as the scientific Council of the Division of the History of Science of the IUHPS, and allowed a budget by this body. But this privileged situation was soon beset by difficulties. On the eve of the Thirteenth International Congress of the History of Science at Moscow in 1971, the past was finally obliterated so that henceforth the Academy could count on no other resources than the gifts of its members and the industry of its Council members.
Young historians of science cannot imagine the kind of problems which their elders had to face. In the euphoria of the victory of the 'free world', UNESCO had proposed to investigate « to what extent the different philosophical schools and the different churches can arrive at an agreement as to general principles, consonant with the present state of the sciences, on which it would be possible to create a world that is spiritually united ». Behind these words was a certain nobility of purpose, but also a failure to recognize realities. And the International Academy of the History of Science has done a very great service to learning by refusing even at that juncture to write the word philosophy upon its banner, and by maintaining the ideals of its members concerning the deepening of the methods of historical inquiry and the critical analysis of facts.
When the transfer to the Union of responsibilities relating to publications and the organisation of Congresses and Symposia took place, thanks to the Academy the transfer entailed none of the dangers that the plans of UNESCO had ignored at the beginning. As to the Academy itself, its more definite orientation towards the bringing of individual scholars together at the professional level still appeared to possess utility, in giving strength to the international administrative organisation.
The name of the Academy and its tradition guaranteed the quality of the motives working for the continuance of its existence : to honour works becoming more and more numerous which were being composed all over the world while taking account of exigencies which would henceforward be accepted, to encourage this movement and to extend its communal spirit without falling into its weaknesses.
At the Tenth Congress held at Ithaca, New York, U.S.A., in 1962, the phenomenon of growth reached a new level when the Assembly of the Academy agreed to raise to 100 the number of Effective Members and to 150 the number of Corresponding Members. And at the same time the Academy ceased to be recognised by statute as the scientific Council of the Division of the History of Science of the IUHPS. There is no significance in the coincidence of these two events. The need for the extension in the last analysis made one conscious of the increasing difficulty of maintaining a claim to the just and rigorous representation of competence in a domain becoming more and more complex, and of making the tendency towards a professional combination coincide with the restrictive exigencies of scientific authority.
When Professor A.P. Yushkevich was elected President, at the Eleventh International Congress held at Warsaw and Cracow in 1965, and Pierre Costabel was chosen as fifth Permanent Secretary, one might have supposed that past history was falling behind, and that a certain favourable progress was being made. The new managers, to the extent that they had not been involved in the evolution of the Academy from within, thought it possible to restore to the Academy of which they had taken charge, projects calculated to demonstrate its existence. They founded prizes, that is to say a Medal (The Alexandre Koyré Medal) intended to honour the work that was most representative of all those published in the interval between two triennial Assemblies, and a Prize for young historians awarded competitively. They strove to obtain for the Academy a major share in the publication of the Archives internationales d'histoire des sciences. But any project presupposes expenses, and it was inevitable that the grants which the Academy continued to receive from the Division of the History of Science of IUHPS became in the end a potential cause for the revival of those ambiguities which had been laboriously combatted previously. After these grants were withdrawn, in 1969, the distinction between the Academy and the official international organisation became complete, and new thoughts were called for.
Fresh thinking had been undertaken even before the Assembly at Moscow (Thirteenth Congress), in 1971, ratified the above distinction, as it already existed in fact. At the request of the Permanent Secretary, Professor Fernand Braudel agreed to provide, from the funds of the École Pratique des Hautes Études, VIe Section, of which he was President, the salary of a half-time secretary for the service of the Academy and the editing of the Archives. Then, when the Parisian publisher of this journal brutally tore up his contract at the end of 1970, because of a considerable deficiency in management, Professor Willy Hartner succeeded in obtaining from the kindness of one of his friends a private grant of the highest usefulness.
By a curious turn of events, it was thanks to this grant that the Academy was in a position to undertake the whole of the financial burden that the resolution of the situation concerning the Archives imposed, a burden that the Division of the History of Science of IUHPS had declared outside its own capabilities. For this reason all discussion of the ownership of this international journal was obviated, and at the time when the Academy embarked upon its new, separate existence, it received, at Moscow, recognition that the Archives might be reborn, under its sole management and control, as the official organ of its activity.
From 1971 until the Assembly held at Edinburgh six years later, because of the impossibility to holding one worthy of the name in conjunction with the Fourteenth International Congress of the History of Science at Tokyo in 1974, the Academy was directed by the same Council under the presidency of Professor Willy Hartner.
At the end of its exceptional mandate of six years, this Council could legitimately be satisfied with the actions that continuity in office had rendered possible. The publication of the Archives internationales, resumed in June 1974 by Franz Steiner Verlag of Wiesbaden, has reached a level of quality that makes it possible to see plainly how far we have progressed in a quarter of a century. The Collection des travaux de l'Académie - Nouvelle série corresponds, in its nine published volumes, to what one has the right to expect of such an enterprise ; that is, the bringing to light of original documents hitherto unprinted and the reassessment of important sources in the light of recent advances in scholarship. Several international symposia have been effectively assisted.
If the Academy profited during three of those years from a grant made to it by the French government, it has nevertheless been dependent on its activity on the continuance of the private generosity already recorded above. And the appeal for voluntary subscriptions to be made by members of the Academy - accepted by the Assembly of 1971 - fails to produce sufficient funds to cover the ordinary expenses of the Secretariat. That is as much as to say, though a line of advance has been traced out, the future remains uncertain. This uncertainty, the price paid for liberty and independence, is moreover fundamental. The name of the Academy does not have the same meaning in all countries, nor are the national institutions to which it relates all identical. In different countries, the idea of the professional group or organisation does not carry the same content, and the sense of words like 'syndicalism' or ‘trade unionism’ varies so greatly that any simplistic application of such words to the case of historians of science is discouraged in advance. Between individuals too there is as much difference in the accent put on the idea of a body of eminent scholars or a society of likeminded friends. But at the end of fifty years, in the course of which the Academy has experienced so many oscillations, something appears to have been gained : the advantage of a link created between human beings, transcending legal constructions and national differences, above cliques and different philosophies - even if this link is sometimes frail, and even though the process of co-opting new members, which perpetuates it, meets, because of the growth in size of the Academy, more practical difficulties than formerly, if it is to be operated correctly.
Of course, the future remains uncertain, and it may include further periods of impoverishment and inaction. At least it seems evident that the Academy is capable of surviving them, as periods of hibernation, because it has grasped the true meaning of its existence and because it is certain of seeing this meaning revivified with each new generation.

P. COSTABEL (1977)

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