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Book Chapter

The meteorite fall at L'Aigle and the Biot report: exploring the cradle of meteoritics

By
Matthieu Gounelle
Matthieu Gounelle
CSNSM-Université Paris XI, Bâtiment 104, 91 405 Orsay Campus, France (e-mail: gounelle@csnsm.in2p3.fr)Impacts and Astromaterials Research Centre (NHM), Department of Mineralogy, The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UKPresent address: Laboratoire d'Étude de la Matière Extraterrestre, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 61 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France
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Published:
January 01, 2006

Abstract

‘Stones fell around L'Aigle, July 26th 1803’. Thus ends the results section of the Biot report read in front of the Institut de France, the 29 Messidor an 11 (17 July 1803) after his 9 days trip to L'Aigle, 140 km NW of Paris. At the time of the L'Aigle fall, the mere existence of meteorites was harshly debated. Chladni's book on iron masses had been published in 1794, but his ideas had not yet convinced the savants or the educated laymen of the time. Meteorite falls were anomalous events in the order of things.

In this paper, I argue that Biot's report on the visit he made to L'Aigle is a key event in establishing the extraterrestrial origin of meteorites. Biot was able to build the proof outside the laboratory and the library, solving the central problem of the distrust granted to the eyewitnesses of the falls, usually peasants. The reason why Biot was sent to L'Aigle by the Minister of Interior Chaptal was the establishment, in the early 19th century, of a centralized politico-administrative structure whose aim was to know, classify and organize France. While Chaptal was trying to bring every social and economic reality into a new social order, Biot brought back the L'Aigle meteorites, and thereby all meteorites, within the order of things.

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Contents

Geological Society, London, Special Publications

The History of Meteoritics and Key Meteorite Collections: Fireballs, Falls and Finds

G.J.H. McCall
G.J.H. McCall
National Museums Liverpool, UK
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A.J. Bowden
A.J. Bowden
National Museums Liverpool, UK
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R.J. Howarth
R.J. Howarth
University College London, UK
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Geological Society of London
Volume
256
ISBN electronic:
9781862395046
Publication date:
January 01, 2006

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