Article ID: CBB381356467

Proving Future Profit: Business Plans as Demonstration Devices (2018)


This essay is a study of the “Project for the establishment of a war and hunting gunpowder manufactory in the United States,” written by Irénée Du Pont de Nemours in 1800, in order to raise funds from potential investors for what was to become the DuPont Corporation. It shows that the “Project” is best understood as a demonstration device akin to those used by natural philosophers at the time. This investment proposal relied on demonstration techniques similar to those of the report of an experiment, textually gathering a crowd of virtual witnesses to address their objections, submitting the proposed manufactory to a number of manipulations to assess its reactions under various circumstances, and relying on a specific experimental device—a profit-and-loss account—that made it possible to produce compelling quantitative results. The essay shows the originality of these techniques at a time when profit-and-loss calculations were uncommon in business practice. It explains that these calculations were intended to ameliorate the entrepreneur’s problematic credit situation, which required a specific demonstrative effort, and points to scientific demonstration practices in Physiocratic political economy, and in Lavoisier’s chemistry, as likely influences.

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Article Lukas Rieppel; Eugenia Lean; William Deringer (2018) Introduction: The Entangled Histories of Science and Capitalism. Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 1-24). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
de Pee, Christian
Haushofer, Lisa
Marc Flandreau
Piqué, Pilar
Weber, Max
Terdimou, Maria
Physics in Perspective
History of Science
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Foundations of Science
Environmental History
University of Chicago Press
University of Maryland, College Park
Verlag J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck)
University of California Press
Santa Coloma de Queralt [Tarragona] Obrador edèndum; [Tarragona] Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Science and economics
Business and commerce
Science and politics
Funding and finance
Science and society
Weber, Max
Schrödinger, Erwin
Pasteur, Louis
Hamilton, William Rowan
Fitzgerald, George Francis
Crookes, William
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
18th century
20th century
17th century
Song Dynasty (China, 960-1279)
United States
Great Britain
Dublin (Ireland)
Delaware (U.S.)
Trinity College Dublin

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