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The Idea of Europe

Catriona Seth
Rotraud von Kulessa

59. A Republic of the Wise

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1One of the major scientific questions to occupy Enlightenment thinkers was the observation of the transit of Venus. In 1761 and 1769, scientists from different countries studied the phenomenon and communicated their conclusions and interrogations to other members of the academic and intellectual community, as Cadalso (1741–82) recollects here in his posthumous Moroccan Letters.

2Did astronomers from every country not come together to observe the transit of Venus across the surface of the sun? Do all of the academies of Europe not share their astronomical observations, their experiments in physics and their advances in all the sciences? Let every nation, then, mark out four or five of their most illustrious, least preoccupied, most active and most hardworking men, and let these men work on the annals of their respective homelands. Afterwards, let the works produced by the efforts of each nation be combined, and from this we shall be able to write a true universal history.

3José Cadalso, Moroccan Letters (1789).

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