Science, socialbility, and the tools of Enlightenment - Johan Ernst Gunnerus and the Trondheim milieu

  • Brita Brenna
  • Steinar Supphellen


In this article we argue that two recent trends in Enlightenment studies are useful for understanding the establishment of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences in 1760. First, recent research has presented an understanding of the Enlightenment as an event in the history of mediation. Inspired by this we claim that Enlightenment practices and tools were transposed to Trondheim by the work of Johan Ernst Gunnerus and the others that took part in establishing the Society. Second, we are inspired by works that stress the importance of geography to Enlightenment thought and claim that geographies were produced by, as much as in, Enlightenment practices. By this we argue that Trondheim was neither an obvious place for setting up a Society of Science in the eighteenth century nor a peripheral town. Through means of mediation it could set itself up as central, but it could also be rendered more peripheral by these practices, and this is what happened after the founding fathers of the Society left town or passed away. However, we argue that it is useful to look at the particularities of what happened in Trondheim as part of the practicesof the Enlightenment.