Measuring the Heavens to Rule the Territory: Filipe Folque and the Teaching of Astronomy at the Lisbon Polytechnic School and the Modernization of the State Apparatus in Nineteenth Century Portugal
This paper focuses on the astronomy teaching at the Lisbon Polytechnic School and its role in building a modern technoscientific state in Portugal during the nineteenth century. It examines particularly the case of Filipe Folque, who taught astronomy and geodesy at the Lisbon Polytechnic from 1837 to 1856, and played a pivotal role in the geodetic survey carried out in the second half of the nineteenth century. As director of the Portuguese Geodetic and Topographical Office, Folque delineated in detail the plan to proceed with the geodetic survey, a plan which involved a significant number of his former students at the Lisbon Polytechnic. Yet, Folque’s influence went beyond the geodetic achievement. Folque contributed decisively for shaping the character of astronomy and of the astronomical community in Portugal. In a period in which spherical astronomy raised to the status of an autonomous discipline, Folque became one of the most outstanding proponents of this discipline in Portugal. He conceived a course on spherical astronomy at the Lisbon Polytechnic and published an influential textbook to be adopted as a didactic tool in
astronomical classes. By doing so, Folque took active part in a nineteenth century culture of textbooks production, and positively influenced the consolidation and shaping of
astronomy as a discipline.