Course Program Information Sheet

FRCH 328/428;   WGST 333;    WLIT 353/453;     PHYS 333

Science and Technology in France: Yesterday and Today

May 9 - May 29, 2020



Prof. Cheryl Toman (DMLL;

Prof. Charles Rosenblatt (PHYS;

Study Abroad Office website and sign-up for this course:

Course description: FRCH 328 (and crosslists) is a short-term study abroad opportunity that is also an exploration of the development of science and technology in France, its rise in the 18th and 19th century, its subsequent decline until the mid-20th century, and its more recent renaissance — from both a scientific and humanities perspective. A significant component will focus on the contributions of women to science in France. Students will visit historical sites such as Marie Curie’s, Louis Pasteur’s, and Gustave Eiffel’s laboratories, Leonardo Da Vinci’s atelier in Amboise in the Loire Valley, and the Foucault pendulum.  They also will tour current research facilities such as the SOLEIL Synchrotron outside of Paris and CERN (home of the Large Hadron Collider**) in Geneva at the French/Swiss border. To supplement these site visits, readings will come from the fields of science and technology (e.g., popular journals such as Scientific American), history, and French literature, either in French or English translation as appropriate for the student. There is no language proficiency required for WGST, WLIT, or PHYS crosslistings. Those who seek credit for FRCH 328*/428 will do their writings and the bulk of their readings, when available, in French. This course also counts for Global and Cultural Diversity credit and may count toward undergraduate breadth requirements, depending on the student’s major.

*The Eirik Borve Fund for Foreign Language Instruction will award a total of ten $1,000 scholarships to the first 10 CWRU undergraduate students who enroll in FRCH 328: Science and Technology in France: Yesterday and Today. Students will automatically receive the $1,000 scholarship toward their study abroad program fee.

** All participants will partake in the 3 hour above ground CERN tour.  But as a bonus, the first 12 students to pay their deposits will have an additional 1 hour underground tour of the ATLAS project detectors.  (Only 12 visitors per day are permitted underground;  we have reserved all of these spots.)



Course objectives: At the end of the course, students will have gained an understanding of, and appreciation for, French science and technology and its contributions in the context of the political and social environment of the period. Students will analyze why women constitute a large and important component of the French scientific enterprise, and how such representation came about as compared to what has traditionally been the case in the U.S.  Based on the site visits, readings, and discussions in the course, students will demonstrate their knowledge through a number of written assessments that examine their mastery of the general subject matter by comparing and contrasting scientific development in light of contemporaneous trends in culture and society. Students also will gain an understanding of the evolution of scientific equipment from late 18th century kit to present-day large facilities found in only a few locations on the planet.

Sample course texts and articles:

Bring the Future to Earth in Paris (1871-1914)” by Miriam Levin

Science and the City: Museums, Expositions, and the Modern Urban Context in the Long 19th Century by Miriam Levin

 Le Ventre de Paris (French) OR The Belly of Paris (English)  by Emile Zola

Madame Curie : A Biography by Eve Curie (excerpts)

The Private Science of Louis Pasteur by Gerald L. Geison (excerpts)

Scientific Institutions and Practice in France and Britain circa 1700-1870 by Maurice Crosland (excerpts)

Nationalizing Science by Alan Rocke (excerpts)

Science Under Control: The French Academy of Sciences 1795-1914 (excerpts)

The Savant and the State: Science and Cultural Politics in Nineteenth-Century France by Robert Fox  (excerpts)

The Private Science of Louis Pasteur by Gerald L. Geison (excerpts)

France in the Age of the Scientific State by Robert Gilpin

An Explanation of the Higgs Boson by Matthew Buckley

Aviation’s Huge Debt to the French by Nicola Clark

The Synchotron and its Light (English) OR Le synchrotron et ses lumières (FRENCH)

Plasmons, Shiny Metals, and Stained Glass by J. Fairfield



Grading for the course:

Reflection essays with guided questions on the site visits and readings (25%). For these essays, students can choose the discipline in which they will approach their work (scientific, medical, political, cultural, historical, etc.) and provide responses to a number of guided questions based on the activities abroad.

Report on interactions with guest speakers (20%). As we will meet with a number of partners in France, students will choose two guest speakers who were of the most interest to them personally and then write an analysis of their discussion, applying various ideas already covered in the course content.

Final paper (30%) Students are to choose two of the sites visited from a list provided and discuss the larger ramifications of the activities represented by the site. Students are to approach the writing from an interdisciplinary perspective to demonstrate the depth gained from studying in France. As the site visit represents an introduction to a particular subject, the final paper allows the student to make a more in-depth study of the history and development of the site while commenting on the social, political, and economic climate of the period that allowed for such scientific advancement. (7-10 pages)

Participation (25%)  As the main component of the course involves travel to France, it is expected that group activities are to be of the utmost importance to all participants. Thus it is essential that students follow the calendar of activities outlined by the course syllabus. Students who miss more than two class days without documentation will receive an ‘F’ for the course.



Sample Calendar and Venues

Below is a sample calendar based on the program in 2019.  Dates may need to be adjusted and some of the venues may be substituted by others based upon unexpected closings, transportation issues, etc. Note that discussions are part of every site visit experience, but there are some longer lectures / discussions that we have also set aside on the calendar below.












Week 1


Arrive, jet-lag recovery

Panthéon, (incl. Foucault pendulum, crypt);  Discussions

Meet with Prof. Emmanuelle Lacaze (9h) & Prof. William Sacks (10h); lunch at Arenes du Lutece;  Jardin des Plantes

Police Museum; Gustave Eiffel’s aerodynamics lab

Musée de l’air et de l’espace (Le Bourget) 

Meet Prof. Marie-Charlotte Renoult 10h30 ;  

Marie Curie Lab (13h-17h) ;



Week 2



Meet with engineer Pascal Karo  & discussions

Eglise Saint-Eustache    then to Basilique Cathedral Saint-Denis

(stained glass and plasmon resonance; mechanics of flying buttresses)

Institut Pasteur

Trip to Geneva**: CERN, Large Hadron Collider

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont for discussions

Musée des Arts et Métiers, incl. Lavoisier’s lab



Week 3





Tour of SOLEIL synchrotron and discussions

Meeting with students from Lycée Louis-le-Grand; Medical museum

Trip to Amboise** (Da Vinci’s home Clos-Lucé and François 1er Chateau Royal)  8h – 20h


Musee Rodin (incl. pieces analyzed at SOLEIL synchrotron)




** Outside Île de France