Science & Education

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 585–591 | Cite as

Science on the Fairgrounds: From Black to White Magic

  • Raichvarg Daniel


During the 18th and 19th centuries, numerous “entrepreneurs de spectacles scientifiques” — a new category of “stall-keepers” — travelled around France, displaying their scientific shows to the public. They turned out to be physics demonstrators, magicians, mechanical engineers or curators of museums of anatomy. A general survey of these shows is not easy because we have but few documents to consider. Through a various set of texts and pictures, we’ll try to understand the general philosophy of these shows: the wonder, the novelty and the surprising are the key-ideas which prevail and not only the idea that these shows mostly deliver knowledge. But above all, we will see that these shows played an important part in popularizing the 19th century scientific achievement as well as achieving the 18th century goal of the Enlightenment. Finally, we may question and discuss the 21st century answer to the question of science understood as entertainment: “science’tainment” as we say: “info’tainment”!

Key words

Science show popularization of sciences enlightment 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CRCMDUniversity of BurgundyDijonFrance

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