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Mathematics in military academies (18th and 19th centuries)

Thematic issue of Philosophia Scientiæ 24/1 (February 2020)

Guest editors: Monica Blanco (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelone) & Olivier Bruneau (Université de Lorraine, Nancy)

Submission Deadline: 01/10/2018

Acceptance Notification: 01/05/2019

Final version due: 01/07/2019

It is well known that military academies and schools contributed essentially to the production and circulation of higher mathematics in 18th- and 19th- century Europe. Over the past thirty years there has been a fair amount of historical work on mathematics education in European military scientific institutions, with special attention to some remarkable cases such as the École Polytechnique [Belhoste et al. 1994, Bret 2002].

More recent studies have taken a new turn, approaching the subject matter in a variety of ways. A number of studies focus on the mathematical courses produced and used at the Spanish military academies (e. g. the Barcelona Royal Military Academy of Mathematics, the Academy of Mathematics of the Royal Guards in Madrid and the Artillery Academy of Segovia) and pinpoint their outreach [Blanco & Puig-Pla 2014, Massa-Esteve et al 2011, Navarro 2013].

Others address the importance of the military academies of Woolwich and Sandhurst in the circulation of mathematics in Great Britain and in the appropriation of mathematical knowledge across the Channel [Guicciardini 1989, Bruneau 2015]. Meanwhile, recent works on the American military schools (e.g. West Point) consider the mathematical exchanges between France and the United States [Préveraud 2013, 2014]. Finally, the École Polytechnique and its school of application in Metz played a central role in the development of mathematics early in the 19th century [Gillispie 1994].

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, these military schools and academies underwent several evolutions regarding their status, their ways of recruitment and changes in their curricula. So far such evolutions have been studied mainly individually, from a local or national perspective exclusively. Such a simplistic pattern has led up to a lack of case studies dealing with the mathematics education in military academies with a wider global perspective, and studying the local obstacles within the pedagogical, institutional or diplomatic framework. Through this special issue, we envisage exploring the local and national dynamics involved, and assessing their impact on mathematics education in the military context. More cross-national and comparative case studies will doubtless contribute to improve our understanding on the construction and circulation of mathematical knowledge in 18th- and 19th-century Europe.

Hence, the circulation of mathematical knowledge between a number of military schools and academies, not only within national boundaries, but also across borders, will be considered. We are also interested in discussing whether changes in mathematics curricula took place simultaneously or rather independently. That is, if one school underwent a change of curriculum, could the same change be tracked down at other national or international schools? Or did they prefer to stick to a more traditional education?

In short, the aim of this special issue is to provide a cross-national comparative analysis of the production and circulation of mathematics in military academies through a number of case studies from the 18th and 19th centuries whatever their geographic areas. This crossnational comparative analysis can help identify points of unity or disunity in the military educational context.

Manuscripts should be submitted in French, English, or German, and prepared for anonymous peer review.

Abstracts in French and English of 200-300 words in length should be included.

Articles should not exceed 50,000 characters (spaces, list of references and footnotes included).

Please send submissions to:

Guidelines for authors are to be found on the journal’s website:


Belhoste Bruno, Dahan Dalmedico Amy, Picon Antoine dir. (1994), La formation polytechnicienne 1794-1994, Paris : Dunod, 1994.

Blanco, Mònica, Puig-Pla Carl (2014), Pedro Padilla and his Mathematical Course (1753-1756): Views on Mixed Mathematics in eighteenth-century Spain. In: Katsiampoura, G. (ed.). Scientific cosmopolitanism and local cultures: religions, ideologies, societies: proceedings of the ICESHS 2012 - 5th International Conference of the European Society for the History of Science, Athens, pp. 336-342.

Bret Patrice (2002), L’Etat, l’armée, la science : L’invention de la recherche publique en France (1763-1830), Presses Universitaires de Rennes.

Bruneau Olivier (2015), « La géométrie en Grande-Bretagne 1750-1830 », in Gilain, C., Guilbaud, A. (dirs), Sciences mathématiques 1750-1850 : continuités et ruptures, CNRS Éditions, Paris, p. 403-440.

Gillipsie Charles (1994), « Un enseignement hégémonique : les mathématiques », dans [Belhoste et al. 1994], p. 31-44.

Guicciardini Niccolo (1989), The development of Newtonian Calculs in Britain 1700-1800, Cambridge University Press.

Massa-Esteve, M. R.; Roca-Rosell, A. (2014). Contents and Sources of Practical Geometry in Pedro Lucuce’s Course at the Barcelona Royal Military Academy of mathematics. In: Katsiampoura, G. (ed.). Scientific cosmopolitanism and local cultures: religions, ideologies, societies: proceedings of the ICESHS 2012 - 5th International Conference of the European Society for the History of Science, Athens, pp. 329-335.

Préveraud Thomas (2013), « Transmissions des enseignements mathématiques français à l’Académie militaire américaine de West Point (1815-1836) », Amnis revue de civilisation contemporaine Europes/Amériques, 12, 2013

Préveraud Thomas (2014), Circulations mathématiques franco-américaines (1818-1878), thèse de doctorat, Université de Nantes, 2014.

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