Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Napoleon's Campaigns: Models for "French" Revolutionary Science Abroad and at Home?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


School/Research organisations


This chapter rethinks Napoléon’s major scientific legacies as the direct outcome of his military, Imperial and institutional nation-building. While such frameworks support official narratives for the unrivalled status of French science at the Paris ‘Muséum National d’Histoire naturelle’ and its daughter institutions in the early decades of the nineteenth-century in Europe, they occlude important German counter-models and inspirations for French Revolutionary science, including major non-military scientific practitioners at work within and outside Napoleonic France. The first part of the essay therefore reconsiders the roles played by international Scottish-German precursors, such as the Forsters on Cook’s Voyages of discovery that directly inspire Napoléon’s inclusion of 167 ‘scientists’ (savants) on his Expédition d’Egypte in 1798-99, and Joséphine Bonaparte’s collections of Australiana at Malmaison. The second part of the essay then investigates two ‘French’ savants trained in Germany who did not join Napoléon’s Expédition, Georges Cuvier and Alexander von Humboldt. Their transplanting of ‘German’ science – Cuvier develops comparative anatomy in the Paris laboratories, Humboldt pioneers ‘plant geography’ on his Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New World (1799-1804) – then allows comparison of their multi-disciplinary scientific work with Napoléon’s Expédition d’Egypte abroad and at home. His Egyptology collections at the Louvre also share their site with the first major ‘world fair’ in 1801, the ‘exposition des produits de l’industrie française’. It features in 1806 the important discoveries in food preserving for military and civilian use by M. Appert, whose work was translated into German to sustain those living under Napoleonic Occupation. By advocating from its evidence for more transnationally-framed models for Napoléon’s avowedly ‘national’ models for French science, the essay encourages the rediscovery of other German inspirations and contributions because also at the same time ‘French’.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNapoleonic Occupation and German Culture:
Subtitle of host publicationInspiration Bonaparte?
EditorsSean Allan, Jeffrey High
PublisherBoydell and Brewer
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Collecting women in geology: opening the international case of a Scottish 'cabinétière', Eliza Gordon Cumming (c. 1798–1842)

    Orr, M. M., 25 Sep 2020, Celebrating 100 Years of Female Fellowship of the Geological Society: Discovering Forgotten Histories. Burek, C. & Higgs, B. (eds.). London: Geological Society of London, 11 p. (Special publications series; vol. 506).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  2. Les Memoires du baron Georges Cuvier (1833) de Mistress Lee: mémoires scientifiques, pacte biographique ou réécriture des savoirs?

    Orr, M. M., 18 Nov 2019, Littérature française et savoirs biologiques au XIXe siècle. Traduction, transmission, transposition. Klinkert, T. & Séginger, G. (eds.). Berlin: de Gruyter, p. 183-200 (Mimesis; vol. 77).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

  3. Mainstream or tributary? The question of 'Hibernian' fishes in William Thompson's The Natural History of Ireland (1849-1856)

    Orr, M. M., 5 Nov 2019, Nature and the Environment in Nineteenth-Century Ireland. Kelly, M. (ed.). Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, p. 159-182 (Society for the Study of Nineteenth Century Ireland; vol. 5).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  4. From people to pixels: visualizing historical university records

    Vancisin, T., Crawford, A., Orr, M. M. & Hinrichs, U., 19 Apr 2018, Transimage 2018: Proceedings of the 5th Biennial Transdisciplinary Imaging Conference 2018. p. 41-57

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

  5. Skin deep? The stuff of adaptability and the intermediaries of science

    Orr, M., 28 Nov 2017, In: Romance Studies. 35, 3, p. 144-160

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

ID: 265897031