Abstract: The Circulation of Corporate-Based ''Scientific'' Philanthropy in Europe and the United States, 1880-1940

Kenneth Bertrams


By the end of the nineteenth century, Belgian industrialist and philanthropist Ernst Solvay and his family deemed it necessary to ''pay back to the advancement of Science a part of the prosperity [they] owe to it.'' To American observers, the examples of Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford first come to mind when it comes to the creation of science-oriented philanthropic foundations or institutes. Yet, such practices, deeply rooted in the progressive credo and the gospel for industrial capitalism, have their counterparts in Europe. This paper seeks to examine some core aspects of the diversity of philanthropic cultures on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. National models (American, German, French) often prevail and are generally accepted prima facie without questioning the practices these ''models'' are supposed to encompass. It is the ambition of this paper to provide the first ingredients as a means to bring out a synthetic view on the divergences and convergences of such models.