Huygens’s Carriole

Urban Commodity, Authorship, and the Intelligence of Carriage Design

In: Nuncius
Jean-François Gauvin Université Laval Département des sciences historiques Canada Québec, QC

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Christiaan Huygens spent five years (between 1663 and 1668) deeply involved in carriage design and manufacturing. This method of transportation, essential to living a honest bourgeois life in European cities, especially in Paris, where the streets’ muck was glorious, took many forms and concerned more than specialized artisans. Several members of Huygens’s family took an interest in improving this technology. The article, in detailing Huygens’s commitment to a distinct type of urban commodity, seeks to exemplify the savant’s early method of creating new technical knowledge. Questions were raised from theoretical and craft perspectives; securing patents and authorship became a crucial feature of knowledge making. From such concerns regarding a fast-evolving and transformative urban commodity, the article argues that Huygens’s approach to carriage design is another instance that conditioned him to respond effectively to the several priority disputes he would face during his lifetime regarding other technological devices, especially his balance-spring watch.

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