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Divining the Enlightenment: Public Opinion and Popular Science in Old Regime France Author(s): Michael R.

Lynn Reviewed work(s): Source: Isis, Vol. 92, No. 1 (Mar., 2001), pp. 34-54 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society Stable URL: . Accessed: 29/12/2011 18:20
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Public Opinion and PopularScience in Old Regime France
By Michael R. Lynn*


This essay exploresthe interconnections between the use of diviningrods,a practiceknown as dowsing or rabdomancy,and the Enlightenmentin France.The use of divining rods to find underground waters and mineralsunderwentconsiderablescrutinyin the 1690s after Jacques Aymar claimed that he could also track murderersand thieves. The subsequent debate, which engaged astrologers,doctors, theologians, and savants,reveals the tensions in French culture at the dawn of the Enlightenmentand outlines the public forums used to addressthose tensions. Another dowser, BarthelemyBleton, provoked anotherdebate in the 1780s, this time with more emphasis on good versus bad science than on demons or stars. The varying argumentsconcerning dowsing illustratethe changing relationship between science and the Enlightenment. Also, the shifting location of the debateuncovers a growing public sphere of scientific activity and a broad range of individuals who participated. 10:00 P.M. ON 5 JULY 1692 thieves broke into the Lyonnais wine shop owned by Antoine Boubon Savetier and his wife, bludgeoned them to death with a billhook, and escaped with approximately five hundred livres.1 When the local authorities made no progress on the case a wine dealer from Dauphine stepped forward and recommended the services of Jacques Aymar, a peasant known to have solved an equally difficult murder case. Having little choice, the authorities called on Aymar's help. He arrived in Lyon, inspected the site of the murder, and immediately started off on the trail of the culprits. Aymar first led police out of Lyon and down the Rhone River, where he tracked the killers to the home of a gardener. Once there, Aymar confidently announced that three people had committed the crime; he indicated the table where they had sat and pointed out the
* Departmentof History, Agnes Scott College, Decatur,Georgia 30030. For their questions, comments, and help, I would like to thank Bill Beik, ChristineBlondel, Tom Broman, Denise Davidson, SuzanneDesan, Roger Hahn,JudithMiller, GregMonahan,Stacy Schmitt,J. B. Shank,Sharon Strocchia,Peggy Thompson,the membersof the Vann Seminarin PremodemHistory at EmoryUniversity,and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Departmentof Special Collections. I A billhook is a tool with a curved blade attachedto a handle, used especially for clearing brush and for rough pruning. Isis, 2001, 92:34-54 ?) 2001 by The History of Science Society. All rights reserved. 0021-1753/01/9201-0002$02.00 34


31. Since he and his police escort lacked the authority make an arrestin a foreign city. William Barrettand Theodore Besterman. theologians. Mass. 3rd ed. Dowser Par Excellence. bottles. The battle developed over the properlocation of scientific authorityand the utility of natural philosophyin everydaylife.: Harvard Univ.The contention over dowsing.In this case the quarreltook place among a variety of savants. Vol."Rationalismand the Occult:The 1692 Case of JacquesAymar.he repeatedlyamazedhis police escort and other spectators with his ability to identify the beds. and executed by being broken on the wheel on 30 August 1692. naturalphilosophers. plates. de and [Jean] Vagini. Traite' la baguette divinatoire. pp. ou Aymar.Lettrede M. 4 vols.The controversysurrounding Aymar's methods ultimately involved doctors. 1860). 80-83. pp. "Recit de ce que Jacques Aymar a fait pour la decouvertedu meurtrier Lyon. 27-31.4 2 Throughout the time Aymartrackedthe culprits. This man.Nonetheless. offers an even more revealingportraitof the Enlightenmentwhenjuxtaposedwith a similardebatein the 1770s and 1780s over the capabilitiesof BarthelemyBleton. Nonetheless. By itself. and even astrologers. a nineteen-year-oldfrom Toulon and easily identified because of a hunchback. 96. 29-49. chairs. where witnesses identifiedhim. (The Hague: Moetgens.the Bleton case fits well with the end. Joseph Arnoul. in Press. knives. La physique occulte. 19:119129. and Paul J. Traiteenforme de lettre contre la nouvelle rhabdomancie(Lyons: H.where he followed the trail to the local jail and directly to one of the inmates. pp. Justas the Aymarcase corresponds neatly with the origins of the Enlightenment. (Paris: Hachette.resulting in a mixture of ideas and notions that clearly illustratethe range of culturaland intellectual tools available to people at the end of the seventeenth century and at the beginning of the Enlightenment. or at least the culmination."Revue du Lyonnais. one called Thomas and the other Andre Pese. ou."Journal of Popular Culture. Baritel.2Aymar by then led the police to the town of Beaucaire." in Pierre de le Lorrainde Vallemont. Histoire du merveilleux dans les temps modernes.Traite de la baguette. 1968). academicians. Morman. 2.2 vols. a forked stick usually used to find underground springs and ores. (Lyon: Thomas Amaulri & Jacques Guerrier. he was tried. Vol.Histoire de la baguettede Jacques Aymar (Paris:Jean-BaptisteLanglois. 1."Histoiredu fait.The reason for the disputecenteredon the fact that Aymar had tracked down the killers with a divining rod. 1693). Undeterred. found guilty. 3 See the eyewitness accountsin Jean-Baptiste Panthot. 1694). both notorious criminalsbased in Toulon. where they had boarded a ship. .Mesmerismand the End of the Enlightenment France (Cambridge. and glasses used by the suspects.of the Enlightenmentin the 1780s. 81-99. pp. they decided to returnhome.3 JacquesAymar's spectacularfeat of detection made him an instantcelebrity-and immediately sparkeda huge controversy. pp. 1837.The Divining Rod (Toronto:Coles. p. Panthot. however. the guardsarrestedhim and took him back to Lyon. LYNN 35 wine bottle they had used. pp. to For his part.1986.Aymar obtained his own vessel and trackedthem along the coast until it became clear that they were heading toward Genoa. and then to the sea. 1979). Aymar went back to work:he followed the trail firstto Toulon. Panthot (Grenoble. 59-70. Histoire de la baguette. informationcorroborated the gardener'schildren. and PierreViollet." in PierreGamier. the debate launchedby Aymar's solution to this case providesa uniqueperspectiveon the creationof a public climate of criticaldebate in the early years of the Enlightenment. Gamier.denied the accusations.and membersof the general public. 4 RobertDarnton. 12. See the accountby the abbe de Lagarde. with more amateurs falling on the pro-dowsingside andmore academicians coming down against it. At that point Amoul confessed and named his two accomplices. who had been arrestedfor petty larcenyjust an hour earlier.JosephArnoulclaimedthathis accompliceshad committedthe actualmurder. anotherDauphinoisepeasant whose talent with a divining rod capturedthe imaginationof the French. 1747)."Un proces a Lyon en 1692. Louis Figuier.1692). For modem synopses see Alphonse Gilardin. l'homme a la baguette.MICHAELR. where he led the police to the very inn where the suspects had recently dined.1693).

public opinion came to be something to which one appealed for support and for which one worked. a philosopher.a social critic." science of dowsing. one that could easily ignore the wishes and desires of the intellectual and culturalelite.N. the size and the scope of the group involved in the dowsing debate altered considerablybetween the late seventeenth and the late eighteenthcentury. Jan Golinski.Thus." History of Science. Press. Public interest in science in particular. it seemed to make rational sense and appearedreasonable. Beliefs. Technology. "'Public Opinion' at the End of the Old Regime. Press. althoughopponentsoften conflatedthe two practices.First. the growth in public participation popularscience in (throughlecture courses. name for the art of dowsing) from the beginning to the end of the age of Enlightenmentin France. books. ." art of divination the the with sticks. and Alice Walters. the Enlightenment-particularly enlightened science-met a fairly simple set of criteria.):Sl-S21.sDuring that period the form. whether as a writer.Science Philosophy in NewtonianBritain. As membersof the general public appropriated tools and language of the Enlightenment. 1992). 1760-1820 (Cambridge:CambridgeUniv.Throughoutthe eighteenthcenturymore and more people placed more and more emphasis on reason and utility. 37:1-43. Press. and Symbolismin Eighteenth-Century Events: English BroadEngland (Princeton. Supportersof dowsing tended to focus on the apparentability of its practitionersactually to find water and springs (and to solve the occasionalcriminalinvestigation). During this period. PatriciaFara. On public science in Englandsee evolution characterized both by the plethoraof social and culturalarenasin which discussions of dowsing took place and by the incredible growth of the audience that contributedto those discussions. and the players in the controversy all shifted to accommodatethe growing public interest in scientific mattersand the appropriation naturalphilosophy into popularculture. 1994). by even if. should not be confused with "rhabdomancy. "Ephemeral sides of Early Eighteenth-Century Solar Eclipses.and the ongoing Enlightenmentstress on the interconnectionsbetween science and utility."Journal of Modern History. and Mona Ozouf.grew alongside the developmentof the Enlightenmentand its insistence that naturalphilosophy could be applied to all aspects of human existence. Subversive Words:Public Opinion in Eighteenth-Century France. it turns out. and somewhat scientific. trans. The changing natureof the participantsstemmed in partfrom shifting attitudestowardnaturalphilosophy.: PrincetonUniv. the forum. Press. 6 On public opinion in France see Arlette Farge.already a mainstay on the other side of the English Channel.and Natural CambridgeUniv.J.6The size of the group discussing and judging the utility of the divining rod expanded as more and 5 "Rabdomancy. clubs.The case of dowsing enters into Frenchhistory alongside the developmentof the concept of public opinion. had the courage to makeuse of its own reason-much to the chagrinof those who composedthe anti-dowsing brigade. such a point of view ran contraryto that of many savants. The public. demonstrations. 60(suppl. For many of the participants the dowsing debate. and especially for the amateursand in those who were not full-time savants. 1992). 1988. 1999.Sympathetic Attractions:MagneticPractices.At the same time. an increasinglylarge portionof the general public began to keep itself informedof currentevents and did not shy away from offering judgmenton what was happening. or a naturalphilosopher.they also the came to take on and alter its purpose.This was a popularscience supported publicopinion.even as enlightenedpublic opinion also grew and developed. and periodicals). Sept. 1660-1750 (Cambridge: as Public Culture: Chemistryand Enlightenmentin Britain.TheRise of Public Science: Rhetoric. but they frequentlyheld a singularly personal version of these ideas. second. it was useful.This shift illusof tratesthe evolution of a scientifically aware public duringthe eighteenthcentury. as was ultimately the case.36 DIVINING THE ENLIGHTENMENT This essay will follow the transitionin the debate over rabdomancy(the official. 1996). Rosemary Morris (University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ.

the baronessde Beausoleil. people occasionally asked Aymar to use his divining rod to solve crimes.identifying the fathers of abandoned children. and determiningif a person had committed adulteryor. since the cord used to strangleher was found with her body. however. 7. in the Veritabledeclaration de la decouvertedes mines et minieres de France and La restitutionde Pluton. 9. for example.retained his or her virginity.La restitutionde Pluton (Paris: de H. 8 Pierre Bayle. pp. they found not waterbut the body of a local woman. Thus Aymar had an establishedreputationwhen the authoritiesin Lyon called on his help. pp. was accused of practicingmagic and-thanks in additionto the bad political choices of her husband-was imprisoned. It should be noted.9Aymar went to the former home of the murderedwoman and directedhis rod at each person there. if only people could have agreedon how it worked. 8 vols. 4 (adultery). Martinede Bertereau. (New York: Columbia Univ. 1674). n. Sept. Traiteenforme de lettre (cit. Press. 235 (virginity). et ses effets demontreznaturels (1693).) He first came to realize that he could use his talent to solve crimes in 1688 when. 1. n. Lynn Thorndike. of JACQUES AYMAR. however. 8. 276-311. Vol. as early examplesof diviningrods. LYNN 37 more people became capable of expressing their opinions on this subject and had access to the basic understanding science necessaryto have a point of view.but Dauphine had a reputationfor producing dowsers and it is likely that he initially learned of his abilities while imitatingothers. that these men were 7Jacques le Royer. thus establishingboth his guilt and Aymar's ability to track criminals. That she had been murderedwas certain.When the workmendug down. a view he shared with GaspardSchott. both for and against. 256 (Agricola). 1923-1958). (Geneva: Slatkine.7By the end of the seventeenth century some people. JacquesAymar was bornjust after midnight in Saint-Marcellinon 8 September1662. 1778. 3). . 1640). Pierre Gassendi and RobertBoyle believed that practitioners could use dowsing to find water and metal deposits but that they should avoid it for other purposes. Vol.noted that diviners claimed to use their talents for a wide varietyof purposes. missing for the last four months. 16 vols. 111 (abandonedchildren). (See Figure 1. The utility of the divining rod could surely have been quite profound.A History of Magic and Experimental Science. Georg Agricola. Proponentsof dowsing often point to Jacob'srod. on the other hand. Vol.Its firstappearance in early modem Europecame in the fifteenthand sixteenthcenturies. discovering forgotten land boundaries. Writable dcclaration de la decouvertedes mines et minie'res France (1632). alternatively. pp. buried inside a barrel. 2). as well as thatof Moses.MICHAELR. pp.Jacquesle Royer. 495 (Gassendi and Boyle). Dictionnaire historique et critique. while out searchingfor water. 1969).when Germanminers apparentlypracticeddowsing in order to locate appropriate places to dig. It is not known how he came to find that he possessed dowsing capabilities.They describeddowsers capableof trackingthieves and murderers.Duringthis period dowsing also underwentits firstextendedsystematicanalysis at the hands of Martinede Bertereau. du Mesnil. 9 Claude Comiers. p.MercureGalant. See also Viollet. 605 (Schott). p. and Bertereau. 6 Nov. Beausoleil.finding buried treasures. The next two centuries saw several studies of dowsing. like Pierre Bayle in his Dictionnaire historiqueet critique. came out againstit for any purpose. Traite du bdton universel (Rouen. p. 26-27. A descriptionof the baroness's works can be found in Figuier.From that time on.he felt his divining rod turn so sharplythat he believed he had found a majorspring.La baguettejustifee.and Affichesde Dauphine. claimed that the divining rod could be used to unearthall sorts of hidden things. however. DOWSING DETECTIVE The art of dowsing has existed since ancient times. moved only towardone of them-the widower-who immediately fled.163 (virginity).baroness de Beausoleil. p. Histoire de merveilleux (cit.

Aymar accomplishedthis task twice the second time while blindfolded.. From Pierre le Brun... they firstput Aymar's talentsto the test in orderto satisfy themselves as to his legitimacy.) not overly credulousor gullible. ..2nd ed. He then went after the three men responsiblefor the murders...the account of his activities remained fairly ... Histoire critique des pratiques superstitieuses. (Photograph courtesy of the of of University Wisconsin-Madison. 17331736) Vol 4 plate.. .. Interestingly.. the local judge. t..38 i.With his abilities expenmentallyproven to the satisfactionof the local state representatives.including the head of the police.the authoritiesgave Aymar temporarylegal powers and a numberof guardsto accompanyhim. and the intendant. . The range of models put forwardto explain Aymar's success representsan astounding array of ideas and practices... A dowser at work. (Amsterdam: Jean-Frederic Bemard. Department Special Collections.. DIVINING THE ENLIGHTENMENT !MO 4 Figure 1. They buied the murderweapon along with several similar tools and asked Aymar to determinenot only where it lay hidden but also which of the several tools was the true weapon. Pierre de Be'rulle.

pp. for example. Verge de Jacob (1693). For the astrologicalinfluencesinvolved in the cutting of the divining rod see Pierrele Lorrainde Vallemont. Histoire critique des pratiques superstitieuses(Paris:Jean de Nully. various nativities were cast for Aymar and other dowsers to see if any correlationcould be discovered. pp. as some emphasizedthe individual's birth while others focused on the rod itself. and under every possible configurationof the planets.It seemed that immoral behavior left 10 Generally. Astrologers concentratedtheir attentionon the confluence of stars and planets at the birthsof dowsers. Some scholars. based largely on Aristotelian natural philosophy. 73-173.'2 Some doctors. and frequentlyvisible. as Paul Chacornac(Paris:Diffusion Scientifique. while the latterbelieved that anyone cut with an appropriately rod could dowse. 165.'0 astralinfluences behind dowsing.He reportedlyenteredinto increased. born of the same parents. or the passing of a murderer however. pp.but a Virgo and that others who exercised the power of dowsing were born at all times of the day and night. JacquesAymar's brother. and on occasion he even vomited blood. and anecdotes designed to legitimize. La physique occulte (Amsterdam:Adrian Braakman. rabdomancythrough an elaborationof its antiquity Anothertheorycenteredon the and its associationwith either Christianor they had supposed. pp. As a result. Vol.with the aid of an appropriately divining ment of ores. 25." This theoryrested of on the idea thatthe arrangement the planetscaused certainindividuals. (See Figure 2.1693). and in the same place two years after Jacques. At stake was the interpretation the events.for example. p. or discredit.had no dowsing capabilities whatsoever.ou.The debate did not center on whetheror not he had managedto solve the crime.he experienced a feverish state while practicinghis art:his body temperature muscle spasms and a quickening pulse rate. Baguettejustifee.Baguettejustife'e(cit.1959). The formerheld that only certainpeople could be dowsers. On Aymar's brothersee Comiers. the dowser could focus on the vapors left behind after an individual passed by. Medically speaking. for an anti-dowsingexample see Pierrele Brun. This would cause a physical. reactionin the dowser.born at the right time. dowsers could literally sense the movement of the same month. to be particularlyin tune with the ebb and flow of ether on top of and under the earth's crust. dowsers tracedindividualsthrougha trail spreadin their wakes with every breaththey took. 2. La baguette divinatoire.MICHAELR. 117-118. LYNN 39 constant."in La philosophie des images e'nigmatiques (Lyon: HilaireBaritel. not all astrologerswere in accord. 442-443. the placecut and. while diamondswere underthe sway of the moon. For a pro-dowsingexample see Comiers. rod. In effect.nor could they determinewhy he could not trace noncriminalsin a similar manner. ed. 1870). when they discoveredthatAymarwas not an Aquarius. As a result. trans. 1702). 9). pp. 3).) Astrologersalso believed thatthe position of the heavenlybodies influencedthe powers of the divining rod itself. n.Thomas Welton (London:Thomas Welton. offered a physiological explanation for dowsing. Clearly. underthe same zodiacal sign. Physiciansfelt confidentthatthis theoryexplained the violent headachesand fatigue Aymaroccasionally suffered. such as Jean-BaptistePanthot."Des indicationsde la baguette. undertookhistorical studies and collected stories. while those against it cited classical examples. should be sought using a rod cut under the influence of Mars. Aymar could not even walk near the ill-fated Joseph Arnoul without suffering severe heart spasms. Iron. head of the medical college in Lyon. see also Jean Nicoles. tracethe movementof thatenergy flow. for example. n. in all seasons. Nicoles's book has been translated Jacob's Rod. . 11 nativity is a horoscope based on the date of a person's birth. p. those in favor of dowsing cited more biblical examples. In this way. citations. of for it was agreedthat he had. 1694). 386-394. 51-53.Physiqueocculte (1747) (cit. Panthotand other doctors could not quite explain how Aymar could focus on one such individual. 12 Claude-Francois M6nestrier.They proposedthatdowsers were akinto humanmagnetsandthatthe divining rod itself acted like the needle of a compass. See the astrologicalchart cast for Aymar A in reprinted Vallemont. A problemarosefor the astrologers.

thus. Astrologers begin the day at noon rather than at midnight.1693).) University Wisconsin-Madison. . physiqueocculte. althoughAymarwas bornon 8 September 1662. the horoscope shows his birthon La de 7 September. 462. Jacques Aymar's astrological chart (nativity).ou.p. (Photograph divinatoire courtesyof the (Amsterdam: of of Department Special Collections.40 DIVINING THE ENLIGHTENMENT Figure . Trait6de la baguette Chez AdrianBraakman.FromPierrele Lorrain Vallemont.

for example. Panthot (cit.-B. The eye sees objects because they radiatecorpusclesthatbump into the matterbetween an object and the eye until the eye registers it. de Ville.Physiqueocculte (1747) (cit.if not particularly original. n. precious metals. 30:225-243. 15 On assumptions about divine assistance see Lagarde. 2). pp.14 We might take Cartesianexplanationsof light and heat to help us understandhow the dowser could make use of these corpuscles. had much to say on the topic of divining rods andthe practice of divinationin general. TESTS. Like Gassendi and Boyle. the The initial attackagainst dowsing came most strongly from the religious sector. example. LYNN 41 traces that could be followed.Lettrede M. "Histoire du fait" (cit. as we might expect. n. on diabolical interventionsee Le Brun. solid line of matterfrom the object to the eye. from a candle flame to a hand. just as the eye focused and interpreted light emanatingfrom an object." Bulletin de la Societe Fran. Histoire critique des pratiques superstiteuses(1702) (cit. 3). In an age still repletewith witches and sorcerers. Cartesiannaturalphilosfor ophers expanded these examples to suggest that a dowser could "read"the matter left behindby certainindividualsjust as one's handremainswarmfor a time afterit is removed from a source of heat. 3). But most religious explanations concentratedinstead on an assumed diabolical interventioninto the affairs of people on earth.Apparentlysome individualstook the term"diviningrod"literally and claimed that Aymar accomplishedhis feats throughdivine assistance."3 Naturalphilosophersmodified this physical explanationin orderto incorporate methe chanical philosophy into their theories.aise d'Histoire de la Medecine. Theologians. an instrumentdesigned specifically to filter such information. . 173-183. 10).15 EXPERIMENTS. Diviners used a tool-the divining rod-to focus these corpuscles. Le Brun did not dispute the fact that Aymar could find water. 4-5. Of course. some doctors came out against Aymar. 8-10. From the Cartesianpoint of view. or other material objects. pp. but nobody could invent a very good medical explanation as to why that might be. and Pierre Chauvin adopted a Cartesianpoint of view and suggested that people left small but very strongly constitutedcorpuscles behind them as they passed. matter completely fills the world. Factumpour la baguette divinatoire(1693). his seeming ability to follow immoralactivity througha divining rod. Le Brun assumed that the devil had somehow duped Aymar into accepting demonic help and thus had transformed the diviningrod into a magic wand. othersdevelopedtests anddemonstrations to help understand Aymar's abilities. clearly crossed the line between the realms of naturalphilosophy and demonic magic. 88. Traite' forme de lettre (cit. In additionto the minimal trials performedinitially by the authoritiesin Lyon. Lettre a Madame le marquisde Senozan (Lyon: J. 1693).these argumentswere certainlypersuasive. 2). reasons. andPierreChauvin. On the response of the medical communityto Aymar's abilities see Come Ferran. n. Vallemont.Histoire de la baguette(cit. 14 Gamier. n.MICHAELR.This sort of explanationcan also be utilized to show how heat can be transferred. There were also various levels of intensity involved: Aymar claimed that he fell violently ill only when on the trail of particularlyviolent criminals and not when merely trackingthieves or finding springs and ores. n. but usually for theological. 1936. 2). arguedthat Aymar succeeded in his work thanks entirely to demonic assistance. See also Claude Comiers.Pierre le Lorrain de Vallemont. AND TRICKS While some createdtheoriesto explain dowsing. p. and not medical. Aymar underwentseveral other experimentsin an effort to 13 Panthot. But he felt that Aymar's forays into the world of the soul. n. The Oratorianpriest Pierre le Brun. See en also Viollet."Les m6decins de Lyon et la baguette divinatoire au XVII siecle. We can picturea long. Savants such as Pierre Garnier. pp.

his talent. In one such experiment. 3).) In anothercase. both because the murderers alreadybeen caught and because his talent allowed him only to detect premeditated crimes. hid three e'cusunder one of several hats on a table in his libraryand asked Aymar to find the money. in fact.Cond6gives no reason why he decided to invite Aymar to Paris and test his abilities.The man. For a summaryof some of these experiments see Figuier.Throughout all of these experiments. At Chantilly. informationcorroborated by his former bedmate).16 These early experimentswere supplementedin 1693 when Henri-Jules.Histoire de la baguette (cit. On the tests given by Cond6 see Paul Bussiere. had bled profusely on the street. worked only when he trackedreal criminals. one of the witnesses present.before the officials in Lyon.and satisfactorily. pp. that if there had been a theft it had been committed as a joke and in an innocent manner. 79-88.Aymarhad to determinethe amountand type of various metals buriedin a garden.In one experiment. 101-102. he claimed. invited Aymar to come to Paris and submit himself to a series of tests. n. she asked Aymar to determine who had stolen money from a certainMonsieurPuget. L. in turn. Calling him into her drawing room. and he. Gamier. however: she had taken the money herself. 18-23 (for the trout).It was a trick question. the academicianJean Gallois asked Aymarto find a gold louis hidden in the gardenof the Bibliothequede Roi. I'abbe D. not crimes of passion. the site of Conde's country estate. telling Aymar that the boy was the son of the guilty man when in reality the boy was not relatedto him at all and had been absent from Chantillyat the time of the theft.*** (Paris:Louis Lucas. This test was had flawed. hidden the coin in his pocket.(See Figure 3. Aymar searchedthe room and announced that he did not believe a theft had occurred. Aymar failed-but only because Gallois had. the site of a recent and especially brutalmurderof one of the king's archerswho had come out short in an argumentwith some Musketeers. apparentlyrathercoldly. however. Histoire du merveilleux(cit.The wife of the lieutenant-general devised anothertest of Aymar's abilities. 1694). in Matthieude Seve. and reportsindicate that some time elapsed before he recoveredall of his dowsing undertakethis task. pp.the prince de Conde.MonsieurRobert.solicited the assistanceof severalmembersof the Academie Royale des Sciences and some nobles who expressed an interestin the proceedings. Aymar first indicated the cabinet in which de Seve had kept the money and then proceeded to trace the thief back to the servants' quartersand to his very bed (even indicatingthe side of it on which he had usually slept. 2). Conde assigned a member of his entourage. Lettre a M. Aymar set performedadmirably.42 DIVINING THE ENLIGHTENMENT verify and explain his abilities. the experimentersled Aymar to the rue Saint-Denis. Back in Paris. He returnedto Dauphine a humiliatedman. real and not the productof some sort of charlatanism. Aymar successfully identifiedthe man who had stolen and eaten several troutfrom a basin in the prince's gardens. Guided by misinformation. Vol. n. stemmed from the natureof the experimentscreatedto test his abilities.both fair and foul.39-40 (for the archer). Aymar performedfar below the expectations of Conde and the other witnesses. 2. pp.She asked him to look again and he gave the same response as before but added. a task Aymar accomplishedeasily. who.twenty-five ecus had been stolen some seven or eight months earlier. He also asked Aymar to determinewhere. apparently. 16 17 . One of Aymar's detractorslied. Aymar claimed.Aymar's divining rod did not move at all.17 in Aymar clearly had trouble demonstrating experimentalsettings that his talents were Part of his problemin this regard. reportedlystabbedfifteen or sixteen times.but he also badly misidentifieda boy as the man's accomplice. even though he passed over the exact spot of the murderseveral times.the lieutenant-general Lyon. in his library.Aymar's divining rod had twitched in the presence of the boy.

Chicago Press. the tests frequenty involved some element of trickery.2nd ed. . Some individuals simply assumed that Aymar was a fraud. On the subjectof trust. "Science and Social Intelligence about Anomalies:The Case of Meteorites. especially the common folk.A Social History of Truth:Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England (Chicago: Univ. was not always the case. reportsof meteors-savants were sometimesunwillingto acceptthe scientificobservations or experiments of amateurs. A dowser finding underground. As with other phenomena-for example.) fairly straightforward experiments. they felt."Social Studies of Science.MICHAELR. 8:461-493. 1978. however. e.g. des pratiquessuperstitieuses. 1994). as such. testing.1733-1736). (Photograph of of courtesyof the University Wisconsin-Madison. it was appropriatesimply to place him in an impossible situation-such as providing him with false information-and then wait for him to slip up. who felt no compunctionto treathim as an equal in any sense of the word. LYNN 43 metals or treasurebunied FromPierrele Brun. and the evaluation of truthsee. Department Special Collections. The ability to determine truth and judge the work of Aymar clearly fell outside his own purview and into the hands of the social and intellectual elite.4.As an uneducated peasantfrom the provinces. Such.Histoire Figure 3. (Amsterdam. These dem- onstrationsseemed also to focus on Aymar's lack of learing and status. In the later attempts to determine the truth of Aymar's dowsing abilities. Steven Shapin. Aymar did not have a very high standingin the eyes of nobles such as Conde'or academicians like Gallois. j8 Several published statements appeared as a result of these experiments in an effort to "I On the case of meteors in eighteenth-century France see Ron Westrum. Jean-Frederic critique Bernard.. Vol. plate.

many people still stood behind Aymar.and in the streetsof Paris. 1. The experimentsperformedboth in Lyon and at the behest of the prince de Conde took place in noble homes. He claimed that the ultimaterejectionof Aymar's abilitiesby the state. the Academie Royale des Sciences put forwardits official opinion in the form of a judgment passed on Le Brun's book against Aymar. at least when it came to discovering water and ore deposits.Histoire des troubles des Cevennes. Hazardeven mentioned the story of Aymar. intendanten Bourgogne. Oftentimes. Vol.3 vols. Histoire critique des pratiques superstiteuses. 1868). De la guerre des Camisards. cases such as that of the murin dered archertook the observersfrom the stately hotels of the rich and famous down onto the bloodstained streets of Paris. lx.several articleson dowsing appearedin a single issue. On the 1706 case in Lyon see Nicolas Boileau-Despr6aux. Vol. for example. The observers also varied in terms of their education: some savantstook an active role. and most heatedly. The argument continued into the next centuryin the pages of the Memoires de Tre'voux. This decision. a M. amidst the thousandsof other anecdotes cited. after the turmoil of the critical debate. 2.Correspondanceentre Boileau-Despre'aux Brosette (Paris: et Techener.. 3 vols. 1. each went throughhalf a dozen editions appearingas late as the 1750s and 1760s. a few amateurswere able to join in. But the debate surrounding Aymar did not actually lead to such a firm conclusion as Hazardsuggested. which offered judgments in the form of book reviews and general opinion pieces. several of which went throughmultiple editions. p. . writtenby Bernardle Bovier de Fontenelle and published in 1701. 1883).2'The debate did not occur merely in an abstractform.. with official in status.44 DIVININGTHE ENLIGHTENMENT warn the public of what Conde had discovered. Many of these early commentatorsalso publishedversions of their argumentsin book form. Martin. Vol. The range of theories put forwardto explain dowsing seems to fit rathernicely with Paul Hazard'stheory that a crisis of consciousness occurredat the end of the seventeenth century. 3rd ed. in 2 tomes (Amsterdam: Jean-Frederic Bernard. 2. 267. (Alais: J. 21 The two most popularbooks on the case of Aymar. p.The broad mix of cultural tools brought to this debate certainly lends credence to the notion of a crisis. while most of the participants this debatewere scholarsof some kind. 1819). Aymar helped the Catholic side hunt down some Huguenots accused of murder. Participants these trials included both men and women.He successfully completed this task. that describedAymar's supposed talent as nothing more than an illusion and a trick. During the Revolt of the Camisards(1702-1705). but othercases also involved keen amateurswith a ready interestbut no real specializationor skill thatgave them knowledge of the subjectat hand. A few years later. in 1 tome (Avignon: Seguin. (Paris:ImprimerieNationale. reportedin 1707 thata dowser had discovereda mine in the nearby mountains:"M. 20 The intendant in Burgundy. Vol.2nd ed. ou. reflected the general move in France toward a rational outlook that culminated in the age of Enlightenment. 353-356.for example. Desmaretz. Robert wrote a letter. came out strongly against dowsing.1733).20 This intellectualand culturaldebate took place in several distinct public arenas. Some even retainedtheir belief in the moral utility of dowsing. however. 3 vols. Pinon. those of Le Brun and Le Lorrainde Vallemont. in Correspondance des Controleursgeneraux des finances avec les intendantsdes provinces. in privateand public gardens. 19Fontenelle's decision is reprintedin Pierrele Brun. 1707. 4 vols. As late as 1706 Aymar appearedin Lyon to help local officials with a difficult criminalcase. Thus. in the pages of the Mercure Galant and the Journal des Savants. 1858). even if only in a passive manneras witnesses or as the victims of the crimes that Aymar struggledto solve. pp. pp. p."21 July 1707. On the Camisardssee Jean-BaptisteLouvreleuil. and at his word a numberof rebels were executed.It was waged first. and Antoine Court.Le fanatisme renouvelh6 (1704).'9Despite these attacks. 423. 24 Nov. published in the Mercure Galant and the Journal des Savants. 51-52.

After witnessing Bleton go into his fit. Vol. was still in use at the beginning of the twentieth Since the region of Dauphinehad alreadyproduceda numberof famousdowsers.The EuropeanMind: The Critical Years. had its origins not with the victory of rationalityover superstition then. nobles. while the authoritiescould not prove or disprove the legitimacy of dowsing. the reality was thatit workedoften enough thatpeople continuedto use it. LYNN 45 While the use of dowsing in legal proceedingsclearly had limits.theologians.keen to apply their understanding Enlightenmentreason and conthe laws of nature. whetherthey supportedor attackeddowsing.23 Aymar among them. and amateursall engaged in a discussion on dowsing. It was the Frenchpopulationat large who continuedto hire him. the people there were always on the lookout for such occurrences. 23 For a summaryof Bleton's early life see Figuier. Many perceived popular credulity as a growing problem in late eighteenth-century France. they claimed.Hazard'scrisis of consciousness evaporates. Bleton discovered his abilities at the age of seven.Ancientsagainst Moderns:CultureWarsand the Making of a Fin de Siecle (Chicago:Univ.Born sometime duringthe 1740s into a peasant family. In this case. This time the debate focused largely on issues of scientific authorityand legitimacy. n. The chief question centered on who had the right to verify something as scientific. his illness returned. for the testing of theories. Dauphine's other famed dowser. in part because of the success of scientific popularizationin reaching a growing portion of the urban population. and public opinion. 22 Paul Hazard. witness his feats. in which a limited numberof doctors.It is perhapsmore useful to see this dispute as a prototype philosophers. Chicago Press. 39-41. the question of whether dowsers could use divining rods to find waterand mineralsremainedopen. 104-105. could nevercompletelyjustify theirpositions. 2.who made up the bulk of the anti-dowsing camp. which fell on the side of utility. century. he was faint and feverish and did not feel any better until he was moved from that spot. Press. 3). pp. began to take sides and offer vinced of their ability to understand opinions. triumphedover the opinions of diverse scholarswho. the Enlightenment but with the creation of a public forum in which the relative positions of rationalityand superstitioncould undergoopen debate and discussion. according to one source. Every time he went anywhere near the stone. In the decades before the French Revolution. pp. The pro-dowsingfaction received backing from a few savantsand from severalnobles-most notably the tacit supportof Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. and the appearanceof BarthelemyBleton. Savants and academicians.natural astrologers. Amateurs.See also JoanDeJean. Histoire du merveilleux(cit. a wide Univ. As a result. burgeoningrationalitywas ignored.MICHAELR. for a public spheredebate. 1997). The streetswere not a place. were unhappywith this trendand declaredthatthe Parisianpublic shouldnot involve itself in scientific debates.who used Bleton's talents both to find springsat Versailles and for the generalbenefitof France. In otherwords. Bleton took a break and sat down on a large rock. and write testimonialsconcerninghis of success. A sudden fit came over him. the local priorconcluded that there must be something about that specific location that caused the sickness and so orderedsome men to dig up the ground aroundthe big rock.Accordingto this account.22 BLETON AND THE UTILITY OF DIVINING RODS It was not until the 1770s. New York:Fordham 1990). however. There they found a spring that.1680-1715 (1935. .But Bleton received his most powerful supportfrom the general public itself. 177-179 (on Aymar). that rabdomancyonce again became a source of controversy. While carryingdinnerto some workmen.

Mesmerism(cit. Univ. 574-576. 1980).: PrincetonUniv.N. 794-802. but on medical electricity see John Heilbron. "Enlightenment the Republicof Science: The Popularization Natural Paris"(Ph. n. 261-289. could sense minutealterations flow of electricity and magnetism.In this science into the general urbanculture. He publishedhis firstbook on the subject. CaliforniaPress. and CharlesC.'" History of Science. he claimed that he used the divining rod only for the benefit of observers. 1979). 4). On both of these topics see Colin Jones and L. where he as soon became identifiedwith questionsof water supply and received an appointment the royal inspectorof mineralwaters in France. 1993). Notably. which. Science and Polity in France at the End of the Old Regime (Princeton.the Memoire physique et medicinal.Electricity in the Seventeenthand EighteenthCenturies:A Study of Early Modern Physics (Berkeley: Univ. Public lecture courses.24 Among savants..some people began to feel confidentin theirabilityto participate currentscientific discussions. On the connections between science and the public sphere see Jones.He claimed thatcertainindividuals. Brockliss.The changes in electric fluids acin the underground counted for the appearanceof seizures akin to epilepsy. pp.As a environment. would begin spinning at an estimated speed of thirtyto eighty rotationsper minute. and Thomas Broman. This meant that he had to supplementhis physical and medical conjectures with additionalmaterials.Thouvenel could not prove any of the connections he suggested.J. Private Lives and Public Affairs: The Causes Celebres of PrerevolutionaryFrance (Berkeley: Univ.Parisiansrapidly appropriated in result. In this section.1997).in copious detail. such as those offered by Jean-AntoineNollet."American Historical Review. all spreadscience to an eager and increasinglylarge audience. Thouvenel received a medical degree and establishedhimself in Paris.25 the first section of the book. 1997). Philosophy in Eighteenth-Century 25 PierreThouvenel. B. The fits. Press. instead. Bleton received his most active supportfrom PierreThouvenel.were closely tied to the case of Bleton andhis divining rod. like the medical crises associatedwith mesmerism. More generally see SarahMaza. . along with populardemonstrations and scientific clubs.also suggested a connectionbetween magnetismand the ability to discover ore deposits. (See Figure 4.Specifically. "The Great Chain of Buying: Medical Advertisement. diss. Memoirephysique et medicinal (Paris:Didot. 24 The literaturehere is vast. pp. Born in 1747. "The HabermasianPublic Sphere and 'Science in the Enlightenment. 36:123-150. Unfortunately. CaliforniaPress.over medical electricity and FranzAnton Mesmer's use of animalmagnetism. a single. Thouvenelestabscientifically lished many generalphysical propositionsthathe thoughtwould demonstrate how dowsing operated.the Bourgeois Public Sphere. and the Origins of the French Revolution. and savants themselves occasionally turnedto the public for support. Wisconsin-Madison.Thouvenelbased the artof dowsing on a combination of electricityand magnetism. Bleton did not utilize the traditionalforked branchbut. The Medical Worldof Early ModernFrance (Oxford:Clarendon. Gillispie. the observationshe had made on Bleton. 1996. 1998. 101:13-40.It was throughhis work in this capacitythat he came into contact with Bleton.In the last decades of the eighteenth century several scientific battles were being waged in the public sphere. Lynn. Here we get a minute descriptionof the spasms and convulsions that shook Bleton while he worked.) In addition.more sensitive thanmost and to changesin the fluidsthatsurround flow throughus all. where he described. Two controversiesin particular.he himself could actuallyfeel the presence of water beneathhis feet and did not need the twitching or rotatingrod to help him.Thouvenel also examinedthe motion of the diviningrod. Thouvenel tried to present a clear account of Bleton's abilities in orderto bring the new science of rabdomancyto the centralposition within the In scientific world that he felt it deserved.46 DIVININGTHE ENLIGHTENMENT variety of activities disseminated scientific ideas to willing Parisians. 1781). On Mesmer see Damton. slightly curved piece of wood. Thouvenel provided this furtherproof in the second section of the book. when nearwateror a mineraldeposit. On of in popularscience see Michael R. in 1781.D. W.

Department Special Collections. of of (Photograph courtesyof the University Wisconsin-Madison. 4AL . . plate.... . ...4.w aS. LYNN i 47 .... dI. M A s ... in However. -Ko. .t.. Vol.p~v ilWlZRtZNcJFSllo -... (Amsterdam: Jean-Frederic Bemard... .IL40 > i '... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~. rod... FromPierrele Brun. ..2nd ed..) then... ThouveneldescnibedBle'tonand the practiceof dowsing as witnessedthroughcountless demonstrations. .MICHAELR. 1733 1736).. Some of the different des ways to holda divining critique pratiquessuperstitieuses...Histoire Figure 4.. ... Thouvenel did not want to feign any hypotheses. while he presentedhis observationsas expenimental nature. ..Mi..they were really just descrptions of Bleton at work and as such not easily disprovedby those who sought . F.In grand fashion...

even though they might have an education. p. The problemfor this reviewer. Social History of Truth(cit. added. Press. As an example. spoke in favor of dowsing. as for many opponentsof the practice. afterall. not scientific. (Paris:Chardon. but the obvious utility of dowsing and Bleton's incredible success rate were difficult to deny. there was no concrete experimentalprocedureto examine and refute. At the same time. This section reproduced numerousnotarizeddocuments. to discover "springs. as everyone debatedthe acceptability of dowsing. They were. includingclergymen. Mesmeristsalso utilized the tactic of collecting affidavitsand testimonialsin orderto supporttheirclaims. Sept."The astronomerand aca26 On the use of credible witnesses in the creationof scientific truthsee Shapin. then their opinion in the matter would help supportdowsing. merely testimonialsfrom amateurobserversand as such carried only social. Several saof vants. 1781.andaffidavitsthatattested to the success Bleton had enjoyed throughoutFrance. Simply put. voiced by members of the Academie Royale des Sciences and amateursalike.mines. and the hidden treasuresof the earth. he claimed. For the most part. it was much harderto refute these documentsthan it was to disprove Thouvenel's theories or observations.lay in the fact thatwhile Thouvenel claimed scientific status for dowsing." he who took advantageof "publiccredulity"could Unfortunately. even though they did not actually have any scientific value. n. and Joseph Aignan Sigaud de la Fond. See LindsayWilson. could never have used the scientifically sound divining rod to solve a murder case.27 Dowsing's opponentsdid not mince wordsin theirattacks:they labeledBleton a sorcerer [sorcier]. and. The thirdand last partof Thouvenel's book neatly took the debateaway from the realm of science and savants and put the question instead into the hands of the general public."The resultingreview was necessarily vague-scientific proof was clearly lacking in Thouvenel's book. If these individualshad social or intellectual status. They simply represented vast numberof individuals the who claimed to have watched Bleton successfully find springs. The reviewer of Thouvenel's book for the Journal des Savants recognized the ambiguousposition of dowsing and tried his best to find a middle ground:he wanted to "holdhimself equally distantfrom the blind credulityof many of the ignorantand from the oftentimes too presumptuous incredulityof certainsavants.1781). Dictionnaire des merveilles de la nature. 18).""sourcier. 1.nobles. such as the famous demonstrator experimentalphysics JosephAignan Sigaud de la Fond. He explicitly praised the utility of the divining rod: it could be used. 2 vols. The goal of such evidence was to overwhelmcritics of dowsing with massive numbersof crediblewitnesses. he insisted. pp. 113. 628. 1993). Vol. . town councils. a play on the French word for "dowser. these were testimonialsfrom satisfiedclients. p. 27 Journal des Savants. 76. Mesmer often took his appeals directly to the generalpublic. who. The problem lay in the observers' status as witnesses-were they. able to be good witnesses? Or were they too credulous of things they did not fully understand?26 DOWSING AND PUBLIC OPINION Thouvenel's book was greeted by a cacophony of opinions. the best supportfor his theories came through public acclamationratherthan mathematicalor experimentalproof. like Bleton.charlatans also abuse the tool. weight. and members of the professionaland middle classes. 75.or be of noble or clerical status. he pointed back to the case of JacquesAymar.reports. Womenand Medicine in the French Enlightenment:The Debate over "Maladies des Femmes" (Baltimore:Johns Hopkins Univ.48 DIVINING THE ENLIGHTENMENT to attackdowsing.

(Paris:l' of letters.Cour du Commerce. 20 (1782). 36 Journal de Nancy. P. step-bystep instructionson how any competentcharlatancould reproduceit. among otherthings.Henri Decremps.Clearly. and Gabriel-Antoinede Lorthe. Guillaumotclaimed thatBleton's pathabove ground so accuratelymapped the undergroundflow of water that if the plans for the aqueduct were ever lost they could easily use Bleton to determineits exact location. 531. 13 May 1782."29 28 Memoiressecrets pour servir a i'histoire de la Republiquedes Lettres en France depuis 1762 jusqu'a nos jours. 7. showing how someone could purposefullycause a divining rod to rotate and vibratedid not prove anything. See also J.MICHAELR. To achieve this end."in Melange d'opuscules mathematiques. 125-156. since his springs. Vol. Libraire.Nor could they explain entirebody gave evidence of the existence of underground Bleton's amazing success rate in finding springs. In fact. 1782. p. 558-564 (Lalande). 3:244-272. Aug. 1780. he also supervisedthe constructionof the Catacombs. 142-144. on two differentdays. Hotel d'Orl6ans. Henri Decremps devised an experimentusing the divining rod and then gave detailed. 248-250 (sorcierlsourcier). but the first roundof experimentsdid not go exactly as the anti-dowsingfaction would have liked. (London:John Adamson.J. Bleton had publicly demonstrated talents. See also Journal Encyclope'dique.Journal des Savants. 5. 1782-1785). accompaniedby numerous doctors. Lortherecommendeda new title: the "Storyof the CelebratedBleton. 1784-1789). He could even estimate how deep the aqueduct ran and the diameter of the pipe being used.6 vols.Nouvelles de la Republiquedes Lettres et des Arts. artisans. The mathematicianGabrielAntoine de Lorthe critiquedThouvenelon a more basic level. Louis BernardGuytonde Morveau.No one had ascertainedthat Bleton practicedsuch false all. The Journal de Paris announcedthatthe science of dowsing for could now be appropriated the benefit of "physics and for the economic utility of his Once again. Vol. 12 June 1782. Bleton performedthis feat not once but twice. 72-73. La magie blanche devoilee (Paris:Langlois."28 Unfortunatelyfor Lalande. 1784-1785). 327-337. .the intendant-general the B'atiments Roi. pp. He published a letter in the to Journal des Savants that purported prove how Bleton managedto make it move. du of Charles-Alexandre Guillaumot.Bleton claimed that he did not even need the divining rod.the plan of which was in the sole possession of Guillaumot. In fact. "Lettrea M. did it blindfoldedboth times. pp.Bleton met with nothingbut success.more general audience.and the anti-dowsing society. and. LYNN 49 Lalandefocused his attentionon the motion of the divining rod. to add insult to injury. at about the same time that he put Bleton laumot had extensive experience with underground to the test. Duplain.The main part of the experimentcalled for Bleton to trace an undergroundaqueduct. betteryet. pp. not includingthe full names of those who had testified to Bleton's talents. Battelier. Thouvenel. pp. P. an estimatedtwelve hundredpeople attended these demonstrations. Guilobjects himself.rue Dauphine. as noted earlier. in orderto sway public opinion in the opposition needed to debunkBleton in such a way that the public could participate the experimentalprocess and actually witness his failure or. Thouvenel and Bleton did indeed come to Paris. Early in May 1782 Bleton went to the Jardinde Luxembourgand submittedhimself to severaldays of public scrutiny. He insinuatedthat perhapsThouvenel had written all of the documentshimself. He noted that Thouvenelhad forgottento include any physics and medicine in his book and suggested that the tome had been misnamed. July 1782. Louis BernardGuyton de MorveaucriticizedThouvenelfor. Decremps. 1781. 169. see his fraudulent methods unmasked. they invited Bleton to visit Paris in order to performexperimentsin front of a larger. 29 Joumal de Paris.a plan designed to prove once and for all that dowsing was not scientifically sound. p. academicians. 4:87-107. and the other individuals opposed to dowsing. presided over the experiments. demician Joseph-Jerome or what the pro-dowsing group had termed the hydroscope.and distinguishedamateurs. p.

blindfolded as before. the prodowsing faction used the victory to strengthentheir case.and CharlesBossut. The garin den. pp.Just as the theoriesused to explain rabdomancyhad undergonea transformation duringthe age of the Enlightenment.M. but he had not been able to duplicatehis feat. along with two Bleton acquiredconvertsalmostas rapidly visiting physicists. and countlessotheramateursas he continuedto find springs. Caritat. 31 The full account. This set of experimentscertainly made a pretenseat being more rigorouslydeveloped and more closely watched. he agreed to submit himself to an experiment at the hands of some of the professors. By the end of May.the chief differencein Bleton's case seems to be his examiners'unwillingnessto resortto trickery. Clearly.-N. (See Figure 5. includingBertrand marquisde Condorcet. The Journal de Paris reportedthat from 1:00 P. Within two weeks Thouvenel.J.the membersof the College de Pharmaciewanted to know if Bleton could distinguishthe rate of flow of electricityjust as he could determinethe rate of flow of water. membersof the Royal Academy of Sciences.50 DIVINING THE ENLIGHTENMENT side was left wonderingwhere they had gone wrong.31 This. signed a letterto thateffect. Bleton enduredconsiderablepain in orderto determinethe connectionbetween his powers and electricity. and nine membersof the too had the tools utilized to test it. Bleton kept himself busy in and clergyaroundParis. On 29 May Bleton showed up at the gardenof the Abbaye de Sainte-Genevieveto undergo testing before a huge audience. printedin full in the Journal de Physique. Throughoutthe day he found many ores and water sources.M.the tests were witnessed by Pelletier. Bleton arrivedin the morning. 1782. Also. 21 May 1782. In additionto the large numberof amateurs. These results. zigzagged back and forth across the gardenfor eight hours before his blindfold was removed.-A. 564. 583-584. the anti-dowsingfaction was ready to try again. and plate. they wantedto examine the movementof the divining rod more closely. were also published in summaryform in the Journal de Paris in orderto reach the widest possible audience. of course. after submittingBleton to five hours of electric shocks.and a numberof midlevel scientific popularizerssuch as Nicolas-Philippe Ledru. The initial effort to refute dowsing. with his eyes covered.30 as he found springs. 16 June 1782. pp.published in the Journal de Physique.severalnobles and state dignitaries. who 30Journal de Paris. Bleton. 675-677. came complete with a diagramof the gardenswith Bl6ton's route mappedout point by point:Journal de Physique. ambassadors. 20:58-72. . While the anti-dowsing group scurried to create a new set of experiments.their effort to debunkdowsing was going to require more rigorous experiments along with a larger appeal to the sensibilities of the generalpublic. Their answer. was reminiscent of those employed by Aymar's critics. alreadyrepletewith fountainsandrunningwater. men.such as Benjamin Franklinand Denis Diderot. This time the anti-dowsing side wanted to see if he would indicatethe same spots he had found the week before. was not the end of the matter. 26 May 1782.Essentially.) A week later Bleton returnedto the garden. amazing and astoundingroyal ministersand officials. however. other scientific luminaries.While visiting the Jardin de Pharmacie. but he also missed many. p. See also Journal de Paris. until 6:00 P. Nor could any correlationbetween water or ores be the rotationof the divining rod and his proximity to either underground identified. and again roamedthe gardensindicatingspringsand ore deposits until half past noon.ostensibly to attend a public lecture. was yes.was prepared advancewith hunks of mineralsand ores buriedunderground differentdepths and in variousamountsbased at on Bleton's previous discoveries.

and Journal des Savants. 20. Fromthe Joumalde Physique. 51 . . 1782... often at the request of the intendantof Paris or other royal officials32 The anti-dowsingfaction had succeeded in demonstrating before a crowd of savants. took Bleton back to the gardens to perform some tests of his own. .in a lengthy supplementto the Journal de Paris.Bl6ton agreedto undergosome experiments designed by Charles. At this time the popularizerJ. and Joseph-IgnaceGuillotin. 67:553-556.. > . pp. 1782. 612-613. Nonetheless. He also continued to solicit support from savants such as Pierre-IsaacPoissonnier. Interestingly. . academicians.-C. LYNN . Thouvenel published his results. ^ . Bl6ton continued to find springs in and aroundParis itself. Bleton's failure to live set up to the standards by the academicians. . 1782. (Photograph of of courtesyof the University Wisconsin-Madison. Chartdetailingthe routetakenby Blton dunnghis test at the garden of the Abbayede 29 Sainte-Genevibve. Then he stood up on an insulated stool. Charles.enteredthe debate on the side of the anti-dowsinggroup.) claimed that the tests performedby the anti-dowsing faction were invalid. . plate. pp.. Figure 5. . . Guillotin spoke in favor of dowsing but had earlier worked on the commission that condemned animal magnetism. '\A l . May 1782.f i..> . who wished to examine the connections between electricity and dowsing.and amateursthat Bleton was inconsistent at best.A{. at which point the rod stopped moving. Bleton stood over an aqueductwhere. This was 32 For Thouvenel's reaction to the experiments see Journal de Paris.-A.soon to be a famous aeronaut.Jean Darcet. Department Special Collections.. did have some negative impact on his reputation.. his divining rod began to move. PierreJoseph Macquer. of course. 2 June 1782. 26 June 1782. 20:70. Monthly Review. j least when he failed to meet those standards in a public forum. . 719-726. but they still were unable to explain how Bl6ton seemed to find more springs than anyone else did. For the new results see Journal de Paris. I U ! 1 7 ^ 5e - 4.MICHAELR. .At the same time.. public opinion began to falter a bit. . along with some additionalaffidavits.

1784. 17 June 1785. On the other hand. Mesmerwas also coming underattack. Thouvenel and Bleton were now on the defensive. 26 (1784). the pro-dowsingside faced serious problems. (Paris: HWtelde Thou. 33 For a description of this experimentsee Journaldes Savants.It did not help theircause any thatthe mesmeriststhemselvesexplicitly associatedanimalmagnetism with dowsing. 1785). Thouvenel wrote that Bleton was to the subterranean world what the aeronautswere to the heavens. At aboutthis time. 14:112-129. 35 See the articles on the baguette divinatoireand the hydroscopein GaspardMonge. 1784. Bleton and Thouvenel could never prove their For theories. Comte de P6luse. Bleton. 19. 36 For the review of Thouvenel see Journal des Savants. 1784. 3. Bleton temporarily managedto maintainhis somewhatbatteredreputationand continuedto work with Thouvenel finding springs and ore deposits for the state. however. 28). Vol. Vol. 1782. 45. After the Montgolfierbrothersand their imitatorstook to the skies.Independently. (Paris: Belin-Leprieur. 1784). and Joseph Phillippe Fran. 6-7. 17931822). Vol. For a combined attack on mesmerism and dowsing see Journal de Nancy. 500. On the other hand.Eclaircissemens sur le magnetisme animal (London. 2nd ed. Divining Rod (cit. the ballooning craze. pp. Aug. Histoire critique du magnetismeanimal. 3). 25:314-315. 1784. 91-92. Reponse a l'auteur des doutes d'un provincial (London. 1784. 2-9. and popularopinion was beginning to waver. although he did mention that Thouvenel's theories remainedunproven. 4 vols. p. In the first six months of 1785 he In discovered forty-one coalfields in ten differentprovinces throughoutFrance. but in the final experimentCharlessecretly connected a wire from the ground to Bleton. and Barrettand Besterman. 242-243. 3). This led Charles. For modem dowsing see the bibliographyin Barrettand Besterman. p.. and his experimentsadded to the damage done to Bleton's image by the academicians.52 DIVINING THE ENLIGHTENMENT repeatedseveral times.36 the end. Jean Jacques Paulet. Public opinion. pp. Journal de Paris. or the practice of dowsing. Dictionnaire de physique. albeit in a way not understoodat the time. and given the obvious connections between mesmerismand dowsing. did not rotate. He did not directly criticize Thouvenel. worked in Thouvenel's favorby makingthe impossible and seemingly inexplicableappearreasonable and commonplace. The reviewer for the Journal des Savants merely noted that this volume containedthe same kind of informationthatThouvenelhad been publishingin the Journal de Paris but that the marvels were even more multipliedin the book. p. p.. on the fields discovered in the first half of 1785 see Journal de Paris. p. JeanDominique Cassini.His reluctanceto attackdowsing may be attributable to Bleton's discovery of a particularlylarge and lucrative coalfield at about that time. 4 Jan. Vol. charmedonce again by this concrete evidence of utility.33 Charles enjoyed a solid reputationamong the general public.ais Deleuze. 1819). and many others. the review in the Gazette de Sant. pp.however. 277-280. pp. On the large coalfield see Memoires secrets (cit. But with the attacks against animal magnetism coming fast and furious. pp. et al. the anti-dowsingside had shown how a charlatancould turn the divining rod but could never explain how Bleton continuedto find springs and mines with remarkablefrequency.34 The issue ultimatelyremainedunresolved.For the use of dowsing by mesmerists see Joseph-JacquesGardane. n. Pierre Bertholon. 1.When the second volume of Thouvenel's Memoirephysique et medicinal was published in 1784 it received the same sort of ambiguous attentionas his first book. as can be seen from the numberof nineteenth-and twentieth-century books that either explore the public benefits of dowsing or attack it as a fraud. 695. 14 (Thouvenel on aeronauts). 2. Barrettand Bestermanpoint out that Charles's experimentwas flawed. . Bleton could probablyhave survived for as long as he kept finding springs. 561. 2 vols. 22 Feb. had temporarily resumed its active supportof Bleton. 34 Journal de Paris. n. Divining Rod (cit. Whatever the reason. beginning in conclude thatthe rotationof the rod was entirelyBleton's doing.35 their part. p. The divining rod. 47:185-187. cf. n.

the Journal Encyclopedique. especially the Journal de Paris. Most obviously. Authority. . These demonstrationsof his abilities were made all the more potent thanksto Thouvenel's decision to publish the affidavits in his books and in the Journal de Paris. the very open and very large public demonstrations occurredaroundParisdrew that huge crowds of people.utility. 37 Guyton de Morveau. First. The natureof the people involved in the debate over dowsing also altered over time. lay with the public and those few savants who supportedtheir cause. Much to their chagrin. in the case of Bleton. and instruction?During this period. for example. a transformation this aspect of the Enlightenment occurredin severalways. The change is partly numerical. In this way. In addition. In such forums as the Journal de Paris.all attestedto and verified by members of the general public.the numberof people who could and did participatein the debate had increased dramaticallyby the end of the eighteenth century. 1781. What relationshipexisted between science and pseudo-science. CONCLUSION The inability of anyone to prove definitively. The rangeof the debateover Bleton covered much more groundthanthe one concerning Aymar. the sites of the debate were more numerousand accessible to more people. LYNN 53 however. the observable.the growthin literacy and the greatercirculationof these journals. naturalphilosophy and magic. fallen on the side of utility and accepted the credibility of Thouvenel's witnesses. ensuredthat a much larger portion of the populationcould follow the currentsof the debate. dozens of nonspecialistscould asserttheir authorityas witnesses and vouch for Bleton's skills. when the terms themselves clearly lacked concrete and absolutedefinitions?What can be divined aboutthe natureof the Enlightenmentand its relationshipto reason.distinctivefor the level of theireducation. Public opinion had initially. Gone. In Aymar's case. In this respect. a small group. He eventuallymoved to Italy. that dowsing did or did not have scientific merit leaves the historianin a bit of a quandary.and the more scholarly Journal de Physique. Guytonde Morveauclaimed. the natureof the arguments used for and against dowsing had altered.debatedamongstthemselves and sought to influencetheir intellectualpeers. this case. and the useful. in either the Aymar or the Bleton case. High science had to meet the popularpractice of dowsing on its own ground. But the debate over Bleton did not occur exclusively in print. the struggle to prove dowsing's legitimacy reached a much largergroupof people thanpreviouslyhadbeen possible.MICHAELR.the amusing. the anti-dowsing side found that in order to sway public opinion they had to abandontheirtheories and ideas and focus insteadon the visual. were the appeals to astrology and theology that appearedat the time of Aymar. By the time Bleton appearedon the scene. Similarly.we can clearly see the influx of rationalthinking and the attemptto apply reason to various aspects of life.37 The question was now one of good use of reason versus popularcredulity rather than one of demonic or astralinfluences battlingCartesiancorpuscles. in amusement. that Bleton should be accused not of practicingmagic but of being a Journal de Nancy. in the case of dowsing.andno amount of public supportcould help him sway more thana few academiciansand savantsto accept his suppositionsas facts. where he lived out his days trying to prove his theories. Thouvenelsuffereddisgracewithinthe elite scientificcommunity. Bleton performedcountless demonstrations.

the natureof the public had changed. Clearly.membersof the general public seemed confidentin their ability to participatein scientific discussions. or contribute the debate."and althoughthey recognized the importanceof utility it could never prevailover a sound scientificexplanation. or processes. Reason held a vital place for both the pro.rationality. At the same time. .qualified. all from an enlightenedposition. The general public.emergedfrom the muddle of the dowsing debate. then.tested.and utility of rabdomancyand of the Enlightenment more generally.amateurs. especially with regardto who could judge somethingas useful and rational.54 DIVINING THE ENLIGHTENMENT to little or no controlremainedover who could readabout.from the elite perspective. "reasonable" meant "theoretically justifiable. popularizerssometimes imbued them with a greatersense of knowledge than they actuallypossessed. and questionedthe use of divining rods. and they were certainlynot the ones that the scientific elite would have picked to performthat task. then. The Enlightenment. decided to create its own public opinion. personnel.and antidowsing camps.the Enlightenment-as least that partof it appropriated the public interestedin dowsing-was out of the control of the few and by in the hands of the many. for those who appropriated Enlightenmentat a more popular the level-reason and rationalityhad a differentstatus. of course.and popularizersall spoke their minds and sought to influence the outcome of events. could be used for purposesfar beyond its originalintent and the level at which it had been appropriated.In giving people an awareness of science. The problem.In the case of dowsing. A growing and shifting group of academicians. individualsacross a broad spectrumjoined the debate. but it meant different things to the two groups. was neithermonolithicnor uniformin its goals. For some. attacked. Popularscientificknowledge. not everyone enjoyed the same level of preparation.lay in the fact that not all popularscience was equal and that while many felt ready to face the challenge of deciding scientific debates. More important.beliefs. Many elements of the old regime tried to implement a certain degree of Enlightenment rationalityin their programs. The definition of what was rational and reasonable was not static but changed depending on the angle of the viewer.The popularization science had sharplyincreasedthe numberof people of willing to asserttheir own scientific opinions.the public took over the task of divining the reasonableness. some of the state's represeneven as othermembersof the tatives-the academicians-largely denouncedrabdomancy state bureaucracy-such as the provincialintendants-took advantageof dowsers' abiliitself occupied a wide range of positions vis-a-vis ties in their regions.The state-another entity that could not pretendto be monolithic undereitherLouis XIV or Louis XVI-occupied several differentpositions within the spectrumof the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment dowsing: people defended. The tools used by people to addressthe efficacy of dowsing and the criteriaby which they judged it altered even as in they participated the process of appropriating Enlightenmentnotions and ideas. In the end. For others-that is.They understoodthe terminologybut chose to judge reasonablenessaccording to visual criteriaor utility. In particular.discuss. Usurping scientific authority. A half-century spent appropriating various types of science and obtaininga substantiallevel of scientific culturalcapitalleft many membersof the public with the conviction that they were able to make decisions in scientific affairs. differing views as to the nature of the Enlightenmententerprise.