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The scientification of reinforced concrete in Belgium during the interwar period: development and dissemination of scientific, theoretical and technical knowledge

Stephanie Van de Voorde and Rika Devos UGent (2012) Nuts & bolts of construction history : Culture, Technology and Society. 2. p.637-645
abstract
Reinforced concrete is born in Belgium – at least according to the statements by François Hennebique. Indeed, the foundations of his international monopoly in reinforced concrete were laid during his lengthy stay in Belgium, with his first patents and the establishment of his ‘bureau d’études’ in Brussels in 1892. Hence, Belgium played an important role in the early history of reinforced concrete, yet forfeited this pioneer position when the theoretical dimension of the new material was to be developed. Apart from the magnum opus Le béton armé et ses applications by the engineer Paul Christophe in 1899/1902, very little Belgian contributions were made to the theory of reinforced concrete during the first decades of the 20th century, especially in comparison with nearby countries like France, Germany and the United Kingdom. In those countries courses on reinforced concrete were taught at universities at the turn of the century already, while in Belgium the first specialized course was proposed only in 1922 by Gustave Magnel at Ghent University - and only as an optional subject at first. Likewise, the first Belgian, not compulsory, regulations were issued only in 1923. Despite this late start, the ‘scientification’ of the material did gain momentum in Belgium during the interwar period. Knowledge increased exponentially through scientific and empirical research in university laboratories and in research centres set up by the industry. This knowledge, helping to establish a normalized practice, was disseminated through academic courses and text books and also by means of the specialized periodical press, which thrived during the 1920s with new journals like La Technique des Travaux. Between 1920 to 1930 enormous headway was made by Belgian scientists, engineers and industrials, thus enabling them to organize the first international conference on reinforced concrete in Liège in 1930. When looking into this scientific activity more closely, it is remarkable that the different aspects of this scientification (regulations, academic training, experiments, professional organizations, specialized press) were developed contemporarily and thus, expectedly, closely related. Moreover, most often the same engineers, professors and/or scientists were engaged in this, e.g. Gustave Magnel or Louis Baes, active simultaneously on various fronts. By tracing the circles in which these main actors moved and analyzing the interactions between them, with particular attention for the question of authorship and the specific characteristics of this scientific network, this paper aims at mapping out the development, dissemination and implementation of knowledge on reinforced concrete in Belgium.
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
year
type
conference
publication status
published
subject
in
Nuts & bolts of construction history : Culture, Technology and Society
editor
Robert Carvais, André Guillerme, Valérie Nègre and Joël Sakarovitch
volume
2
pages
637 - 645
publisher
Picard
place of publication
Paris, France
conference name
4th International Congress on Construction History
conference location
Paris, France
conference start
2012-07-03
conference end
2012-07-07
ISBN
9782708409293
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
C1
copyright statement
I have transferred the copyright for this publication to the publisher
id
2966184
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-2966184
date created
2012-08-01 09:54:28
date last changed
2015-06-17 10:12:15
@inproceedings{2966184,
  abstract     = {Reinforced concrete is born in Belgium -- at least according to the statements by Fran\c{c}ois Hennebique. Indeed, the foundations of his international monopoly in reinforced concrete were laid during his lengthy stay in Belgium, with his first patents and the establishment of his {\textquoteleft}bureau d{\textquoteright}{\'e}tudes{\textquoteright} in Brussels in 1892. Hence, Belgium played an important role in the early history of reinforced concrete, yet forfeited this pioneer position when the theoretical dimension of the new material was to be developed. Apart from the magnum opus Le b{\'e}ton arm{\'e} et ses applications by the engineer Paul Christophe in 1899/1902, very little Belgian contributions were made to the theory of reinforced concrete during the first decades of the 20th century, especially in comparison with nearby countries like France, Germany and the United Kingdom. In those countries courses on reinforced concrete were taught at universities at the turn of the century already, while in Belgium the first specialized course was proposed only in 1922 by Gustave Magnel at Ghent University - and only as an optional subject at first. Likewise, the first Belgian, not compulsory, regulations were issued only in 1923. Despite this late start, the {\textquoteleft}scientification{\textquoteright} of the material did gain momentum in Belgium during the interwar period. Knowledge increased exponentially through scientific and empirical research in university laboratories and in research centres set up by the industry. This knowledge, helping to establish a normalized practice, was disseminated through academic courses and text books and also by means of the specialized periodical press, which thrived during the 1920s with new journals like La Technique des Travaux. Between 1920 to 1930 enormous headway was made by Belgian scientists,  engineers and industrials, thus enabling them to organize the first international conference on reinforced concrete in Li{\`e}ge in 1930. When looking into this scientific activity more closely, it is remarkable that the different aspects of this scientification (regulations, academic training, experiments, professional organizations, specialized press) were developed contemporarily and thus, expectedly, closely related. Moreover, most often the same engineers, professors and/or scientists were engaged in this, e.g. Gustave Magnel or Louis Baes, active simultaneously on various fronts. By tracing the circles in which these main actors moved and analyzing the interactions between them, with particular attention for the question of authorship and the specific characteristics of this scientific network, this paper aims at mapping out the development, dissemination and implementation of knowledge on reinforced concrete in Belgium.},
  author       = {Van de Voorde, Stephanie and Devos, Rika},
  booktitle    = {Nuts \& bolts of construction history : Culture, Technology and Society},
  editor       = {Carvais, Robert and Guillerme, Andr{\'e} and N{\`e}gre, Val{\'e}rie and Sakarovitch, Jo{\"e}l},
  isbn         = {9782708409293},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Paris, France},
  pages        = {637--645},
  publisher    = {Picard},
  title        = {The scientification of reinforced concrete in Belgium during the interwar period: development and dissemination of scientific, theoretical and technical knowledge},
  volume       = {2},
  year         = {2012},
}

Chicago
Van de Voorde, Stephanie, and Rika Devos. 2012. “The Scientification of Reinforced Concrete in Belgium During the Interwar Period: Development and Dissemination of Scientific, Theoretical and Technical Knowledge.” In Nuts & Bolts of Construction History : Culture, Technology and Society, ed. Robert Carvais, André Guillerme, Valérie Nègre, and Joël Sakarovitch, 2:637–645. Paris, France: Picard.
APA
Van de Voorde, S., & Devos, R. (2012). The scientification of reinforced concrete in Belgium during the interwar period: development and dissemination of scientific, theoretical and technical knowledge. In R. Carvais, A. Guillerme, V. Nègre, & J. Sakarovitch (Eds.), Nuts & bolts of construction history : Culture, Technology and Society (Vol. 2, pp. 637–645). Presented at the 4th International Congress on Construction History, Paris, France: Picard.
Vancouver
1.
Van de Voorde S, Devos R. The scientification of reinforced concrete in Belgium during the interwar period: development and dissemination of scientific, theoretical and technical knowledge. In: Carvais R, Guillerme A, Nègre V, Sakarovitch J, editors. Nuts & bolts of construction history : Culture, Technology and Society. Paris, France: Picard; 2012. p. 637–45.
MLA
Van de Voorde, Stephanie, and Rika Devos. “The Scientification of Reinforced Concrete in Belgium During the Interwar Period: Development and Dissemination of Scientific, Theoretical and Technical Knowledge.” Nuts & Bolts of Construction History : Culture, Technology and Society. Ed. Robert Carvais et al. Vol. 2. Paris, France: Picard, 2012. 637–645. Print.