The Breaking of a Paradigm:
from Mechanics to Thermodynamics

Dr. Raffaele Pisano
Lille 3 University, France

7:00pm Thursday
March 2nd, 2017

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The great events that Lazare Carnot touched and shaped never caused him to lose sight of the adaptation of the science of mechanics to the science of machines that he thought to initiate when still an obscure young engineer.


Lille 3 University, France

Raffaele Pisano (Italy, 1970) is a physicist and Qualified and Habilis (HDR). Since 2016, 1st September he is full professor of science education/didactic & history of physics at the Lille 3 University, Théodile-CIREL Centre EA 4354, France.

He is Vice President elected (2011-) of the Inter–Divisional Teaching Commission (Division of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science/International Union for History and Philosophy of Science). Past head of the Research Centre for the Theory and History of Science, University of West Bohemia in Czech Republic.

Author of more than one hundred-thirty publications in the fields of history of sciences and education. Recently: Lazare and Sadi Carnot. A Scientific and Filial Relationship (2014, 2nded. Netherland: Springer) with Charles Coulston Gillispie, Princeton University, USA; The Dialectic Relation between Physics and Mathematics in The XIXth Century (2013, Netherland: Springer) co-editor with Evelyne Barbin, University de Nantes, France. Tartaglia’s Science of Weights and Mechanics in Sixteenth–Century. Selections from Quesiti et inventioni diverse: Books VII–VIII (2015, Netherland: Springer).

A Bridge between Conceptual Frameworks, Science, Society and Technology Studies (2015, Editor. Netherland: Springer). Reworking (with Paolo Bussotti, Udune University, Italy) of Geneva Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (5 vols., The Oxford University Press. Expected: 2020)

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Fortunately for the historian, the documentation is adequate to permit following his conceptions from their genesis in the entry he prepared for the prize contest set by the Academy of sciences in April 1777 right through their development during his lifetime into the subject matter of a new branch of science in the 1820s.

His own ideas were expressed in their most individual and unadorned form in his first publication, the Essai sur les machines en général of 1783. The stages through which Carnot formulated his approach may be observed in the successive memoirs he submitted to the Academy in 1778 and 1780. Twenty years later, an ostensibly retired statesman, he extended and developed the subject in Principes fondamentaux de l’équilibre et du mouvement.

Beyond this Sadi Carnot’s Réflexions sur la puissance motrice du feu, published in 1824, the year after his father’s death, may properly be read not only as the foundation of thermodynamics, but also as the culmination of a methodologically and conceptually coherent series of Carnot essays on the science of machines.