Ernest Solvay*s scientific networks. From personal research to academic patronage
Solvay Corporate Heritage Manager, Brussels, Belgium
a e-mail: email@example.com
Received: 10 June 2015
Revised: 10 July 2015
Published online: 10 September 2015
Ernest Solvay was a multifaceted man. A successful captain of industry, he got known in the second part of his life as a magnanimous sponsor of academic science. His most notable achievements in this field are the creation of a series of university institutes in Brussels as well as the co-organization of the conferences of physics and chemistry that bear his name and are still held today.
A famous picture of 1911 depicts this man deprived of any university degree, surrounded by the brightest scientists of the time. The often conveyed image of a self-made man leads to an underestimation of his networking and delegation capabilities. Recent investigations in his private archives as well as in “his” company archives shed new light on his organizational skills in the scientific arena.
This paper focuses especially on this facet, and intends to analyze how Solvay behaved as an organizer of science. Three partially overlapping levels are discussed in sequence: the Solvay Company level, his personal level, and the academic level. The paper identifies the key actors in these areas, and evaluates the intensity of control and delegation exerted by Ernest Solvay in each of these spheres.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2015