Science

The old-fashioned charm of the ancestor of patents


INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY Did you know that, every year, the perpetual secretary of the Académie des Sciences still receives around thirty wax-sealed envelopes? The practice is old, almost as old as the institution on Quai de Conti, in Paris. It was designed to protect discoveries and inventions from the risk of counterfeiting. A sort of ancestor of the patent, but without legal existence or (real) legal value. This did not prevent a number of scientists and inventors, French and foreign, from using it (18,802 cases identified on January 1, 2020). In this book, some twenty of these old-fashioned missives are presented. A good summary of what research is, made up of striking discoveries (the discovery of Lucy’s mandible), scientific responses to societal issues (fight against vine phylloxera), but also unusual inventions (cotton swab) and not always convincing demonstrations.

Under the seal of secrecy. The sealed envelopes of the Academy of Sciences, Edgardo-D. Carosella (dir.), CNRS éditions, 240 p., € 25

This column was published in issue 884 of the monthly Sciences et Avenir – Research. Also find our review of the book “Taste: a nose affair”, by Loïc Briand, research director of Taste and Food Science Center of the University of Burgundy, also published in this issue. The author explains how this primordial sense also passes through the nasal olfactory cells.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY Did you know that, every year, the perpetual secretary of the Académie des Sciences still receives around thirty wax-sealed envelopes? The practice is old, almost as old as the institution on Quai de Conti, in Paris. It was designed to protect discoveries and inventions from the risk of counterfeiting. A sort of ancestor of the patent, but without legal existence or (real) legal value. This did not prevent a number of scientists and inventors, French and foreign, from using it (18,802 cases identified on January 1, 2020). In this book, some twenty of these old-fashioned missives are presented. A good summary of what research is, made up of striking discoveries (the discovery of Lucy’s mandible), scientific responses to societal issues (fight against vine phylloxera), but also unusual inventions (cotton swab) and not always convincing demonstrations.

Under the seal of secrecy. The sealed envelopes of the Academy of Sciences, Edgardo-D. Carosella (dir.), CNRS éditions, 240 p., € 25

This column was published in issue 884 of the monthly Sciences et Avenir – The Rec …

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