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This programme presents some of the most striking parts of Fontenelle's Entretiens sur la Plurality des Mondes - 'Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds' - published in 1686. The Conversations w...ere an immensely popular presentation of the cosmological ideas of their time - they went through thirty - one editions in Fontenelle's own life-time - and they present mainly three sets of ideas: the Copernican system of the universe, Descartes' explanation of planetary motion, and the idea that the planets and other heavenly bodies might be inhabited. Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle was a French poet and playwright - a nephew of the great dramatist Pierre Corneille - born in 1657. He died a month short of his hundredth birthday and from 1697 almost until his death was Secretary of the French Royal Academy of Sciences. The Conversations were the work that, at the age of twenty-nine, made him famous in the worlds of science and literature alike. The part of Fontenelle is played by David William, that of the Marquise by Georgina Ward, and the introduction and BBC production are by Alasdair Clayre, who has based his new translation on a free rendering of the Conversations published anonymously in England in 1688. The music is by Lully, who collaborated with Fontenelle in the theatre at the time. The film is shot on location in two seventeenth century formal gardens, one of them the garden of the house where Fontenelle wrote the Conversations - the Chateau de la Mesangere, near Rouen, family home of Mme de la Mesangere the heroine of the Conversations.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: AMST283, Science and belief: from Copernicus to Darwin
Item code: AMST283; 03
First transmission date: 20-03-1974
Published: 1974
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:22:00
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Producer: Alasdair Clayre
Contributors: Alasdair Clayre; Georgina Ward; David Williams
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Astronomy; Cosmology; Fontenelle
Footage description: Programme consists of a dramatisation of extracts from Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle's 'Entretiens sur le pluralite des mondes' published in 1686. David William and Georgina Ward play Fonteneile and the Marquise, Madame de la Mesanger respectively. Opening scene is set in a formal garden as darkness falls: Fontenelle introduces the Marquise to the study of astronomy. Alasdair Clayre introduces the programme, describing the conversations and giving a brief biography of Fontenelle: portrait of him, and engraving from the book. Clayre is seen outside the Chateau de la Mesangere, near Rouen, where the conversations were written. Formal gardens here by Le Notre. Shots of avenue of trees. In the first extract, from the fourth conversation, Fontenelle and the Marquise discuss the Cartesian theory of vortices. Setting is a formal garden terrace in daytime. Clayre, in the garden at Rouen introduces the next extract, from the fifth conversation in which the discussion is about fixed stars. Setting is an avenue of trees. In 1638 John Wilkins speculated in 'The discovery of a new world in the Moone' on extraterrestrial life. Title page of this work. Clayre introduces the next extract which covers this point and also the nature of comets. Setting this time is beside a fountain. Clayre introduces a final extract, from the close of the fifth conversation, about the nature of sunspots, challenging the Aristotelian idea of perfection, introducing the concept of vast time scales and continuous creation. The scene is known as the Parable of the Rose and takes place in a rose garden. Clayre sums up, pointing out the influence on the French philosophers of the following century of Fontenelle's statement of scientific ideas in a literary form. Closing scene in the rose garden. Credits. Music over opening and closing titles is by Lully.
Master spool number: 6HT/71295
Production number: 00525_3111
Videofinder number: 3351
Available to public: no