Promitheus Project

The Spreading of the Ideas of the Scientific Revolution from the Countries Where they Originated to the Countries in the Periphery of Europe (Iberian Peninsula, Balkans, Scandinavian) during 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The grand synthesis of the 16th and 17th centuries which came to be known as the Scientific Revolution is a uniquely European phenomenon. It originated in Europe, and among other things, it provided the conditions for the formation of cohesive forces in Europe, and it determined the scientific/technological framework within which the relations of Europe to the rest of the world were formed and developed until the present. The assimilation of the ideas of the Scientific Revolution and the resistance to that assimilation have been a determining factor in the formed pluralisms within the European uniformity. The social, ideological, theological, economic and political repercussions of these developments have been stupendous. They have been quite systematically studied, especially within the setting of the countries where the Scientific Revolution originated: England, France, Germany, Holland, Northern Italy.

But what happened during the 17th and 18th centuries in the periphery of Europe ? How have the ideas of the Scientific Revolution "migrated" to these countries? What has been the process of their assimilation? What has been the particularity of their expression in each country? What has been the particular form of resistance in these countries to these new developments?

These questions have been very little studied.

Project Prometheus will attempt to elucidate them with a multinational team of scholars, and the participation of specialists from the physical and technological sciences, historians and philosophers of science and technology, sociologists, economists etc. The aim of the project is to study the characteristics and the temporal and spatial evolution of the spreading of the ideas developed during the period of the Scientific Revolution from the countries where it originated, to the Balkans, East European countries, Russia, Spain, Portugal and the Scandinavian countries during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Understanding the questions posed is not without interest for contemporary issues. Europe today faces the exceedingly complex problem of how to proceed with the "third technological revolution". Though any formal comparison with the period and its problems would be futile, there are cultural trends which may help us to further understand the complexities and prospects of the new European integration.

    Project Prometheus will attempt to:
  • Study the specific role of the different external and internal factors in this "migratory" process both in global (European) and local (country) scale.
  • Determine the influence of this process in the development and the evolution of scientific production in the periphery. Examine in every country of the periphery the results of this new conception of nature and the new role of technology.
  • Investigate those cases in the centre who have either written about or actively participated in this "migration" process of the ideas of the Scientific Revolution towards the periphery.
  • Understand the differences resulting from the overall social function of the "scientists" in the centre and the periphery.

The different roles of scientific knowledge in the centre and the periphery determine different profiles and social functions of the scientists. In the centre, the main role of the scientists was scientific production, in contrast to their role in the periphery where their main function was to disseminate this knowledge through the educational structures. Hence the scientists in the centre had a predominantly "productive" role whereas those at the periphery had a predominantly "educational" role. That means that the role of the scientists in the centre was more independent and at times, they "set the pace" of various developments in their respective countries. In the periphery this role was more closely related with the ideological formation of the new society.

For the realisation of this project the co-operation between European countries of the centre and the periphery is necessary because the aim of the whole project is a large-scale synthesis of the partial studies which have been elaborated by the participating teams on a national level. Only such a synthesis can contribute towards the comprehension of the main mechanisms and the characteristics of this migration process that is closely related with the first large intellectual European integration process. The study of this process can, furthermore contribute to the comprehension of the formation of the common intellectual characteristics as well of the differences of the countries of the European Community.

This is the first time that a co-operation between such a large number of national research teams on history of science will cooperate on a global study , of such an extended historical period, of a large geographical area that covers almost all of Europe and by the simultaneous use of different language sources.


  • Michel Blay, C.N.R.S.
  • Dimitris Dialetis, National Observatory of Athens.
  • Kostas Gavroglu, University of Athens.
  • Robert Halleux, Universite de Liege.
  • Peter Harman, Lancaster University.
  • Dieter Hoffman, Forschungsschwerpunkt Wissenschaftsgeschichte und Wissenschaftstheorie, Berlin.
  • Anne Kox, University of Amsterdam.
  • Efthymios Nicolaidis, Hellenic Research Foundation.
  • Marcello Pera, Universita degli Studi di Pisa.
  • Simon Schaffer, University of Cambridge.
  • Ana Simoes, Universidade de Lisboa.
  • Antonio Ten, Universidad de Valencia.
Directorate General XII of the European Commission 1994-1997

Prometheus has been funded by the Directorate General XII of the European Commission 1994-1997.