This is how the divine Raphael imagined the unity of the great spirits of Greece: his “School of Athens” was created in 1510
Ever since the Enlightenment, scientists have dreamed of overcoming the fragmentation of their disciplines. But the vision of an international scientific association remains utopian. A guest post.
In 1895, the great ancient historian and philologist Theodor Mommsen delivered a melancholy verdict on the state of the sciences on the occasion of the annual Leibniz memorial day in front of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Although science, especially German science, was making enormous strides and flourishing as never before in its history, surpassing even Leibniz’s rosiest predictions for the Berlin Academy he had helped found in 1700, Mommsen felt that in the intervening two centuries something essential had been lost: “If Leibniz’s academy can be regarded as the continuation of his work and if it has its right legitimacy in this, we cannot hide ourselves and have to accept that this continuation, in its fragmentation over several classes and Within these classes, to numerous narrower circles, a surrogate is essential and effective, but not necessarily healthy. Our work praises no master, and we are all journeymen.”
It must have been quite unnerving for Mommsen’s renowned academic colleagues, who included Max Planck and Wilhelm Dilthey, to hear that they were all just journeymen, but they probably nodded their heads in agreement.