Les jardiniers, ces invisibles du Jardin du roi by Laurence LIPPI – Archives du Calvados

See all events
  • Rendez-vous de l'Institut
  • Conference

Les jardiniers, ces invisibles du Jardin du roi by Laurence LIPPI – Archives du Calvados

Gardeners, the invisible part of the King’s garden

The King’s garden originally designated the Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants, as per the Royal Edict of January 1626, today known as the ‘Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Garden), which would never have existed had it not been for its gardeners. These ‘invisible technicians’, a term coined by the science historian Steven Shapin, were for a long time kept in the shadows in the institution’s historiography, and that of the history of science. Yet these key players in the organisation, maintenance and preservation of plants on a daily basis, participate – through the command of their skills and know-how – in the scientific projects that are either initiated or accompanied by the institution. However, since their profession is practised more than it is spoken, these gardeners have left very few written traces, in contrast with the learned, whose archives were preserved, either by themselves or by their institution. This explains part of the invisibility of these subordinates. There is one exception – André Thouin (1747-1824), who was appointed head gardener of the King’s garden at the age of 17, by the intendant Georges Louis Leclerc, Count of Buffon (1707-1788). Thanks to the intendant’s unfailing trust in him, André Thouin’s role stretched well beyond that of gardener, acting as accountant and administrator, both of the Garden and of all its staff. Concurrent to Buffon’s policy to extend the Garden as from the 1770s, André Thouin reorganised the site into different plots devoted to specific plants, the responsibility and management of which he entrusted to the most talented gardeners. Based on a few archive sources, this conference offers an encounter with these gardeners and repositions them at the heart of the King’s garden.

Laurence Lippi

Under the direction of Antonella Romano from the EHESS (School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) and Arnaud Hurek from the Museum of Natural History, Laurence Lippi is in her second PhD year at the EHESS, studying specifically in the Centre Alexandre Koyré’s Knowledge in Societies’ option. Her work focuses on the history of the Museum via a social history approach to what historiography calls the Invisibles.