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Foundation of the Lisbon Polytechnic School Astronomical Observatory in the Late Nineteenth Century: A Step Towards Establishing a University

  • Luís Miguel Carolino
Chapter
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 309)

Abstract

This paper focuses on the establishment of the Astronomical Observatory at the Lisbon Polytechnic School (AOLPS) in the 1870s and explores its interplay with the launching of an astrophysics research programme at this school. In the late nineteenth century, the establishment of an astrophysics research programme represented a challenge to university observatories. As national observatories were mostly concerned with meridian astronomy, astrophysics provided university observatories with the chance to assume the leadership in this new branch of astronomical science. Yet, in the case of Lisbon Polytechnic School (LPS), the option for an astrophysics research programme can be related to academic prestige and capacity to influence scientific and educational policies at a national scale in its plea for a university status. Indeed, this institution was eventually transformed into the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, in 1911, in the aftermath of the Republican revolution. The inability of AOLPS to identify itself as a research institution and to fulfil the expectations behind its creation resulted from the higher education institutional context in which it emerged. In a peripheral country, where scientific professions scarcely existed, the main educational motivation of faculties of science was to provide applied education to students and prospective civil servants. In this context, there was little room to implement an educational policy based upon research.

Keywords

Astronomical observatory of Lisbon Polytechnic School Lisbon Polytechnic School University of Lisbon Mariano Cirilo de Carvalho Henrique de Macedo Pereira Coutinho Astrophysics Spherical astronomy 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This study was carried out as part of the Research Project HC/0084/2009 funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia. A first draft of this paper was presented at the 8th Step Meeting Science and Technology in the European Periphery (Corfu, Greece, 2012). I thank participants for comments and suggestions. I also would like to thank Ana Simões and Pedro Raposo, who read the manuscript and made many comments and suggestions.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interuniversity Center for the History of Science and Technology (CIUHCT)ISCTE—Lisbon University Institute/CEHCLisbonPortugal

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