The transportation revolution that took place during the 19th century offers one of the best illustrations of how science was disseminated to the general public.
Not a decade went by without a new invention that radically changed how people traveled, by land or by sea.
While the French were slow to adopt the railroad, the attraction was more immediate for individual means of locomotion like the bicycle and the automobile.
Inventions and improvements were coming one after another, and by the year 1900, more than 90,000 Parisians owned bicycles.
As for automobiles, despite their imperfect technology and frequent breakdowns, they caught on slowly but surely. The first automobile show was held in Paris in 1898.
Just a year later, the Dion-Bouton “motorette,” which could carry up to three people, was a huge success. A symbol of modern technology, automobile racing was soon recognized as a sport.
As early as 1903, a member of the Paris municipal council had no qualms about writing, in a report on mobility in the French capital, “automobiles reign supreme.” At the time, there were approximately 3,000 automobiles in all of France.
Various improvements in public-transportation services in cities were also modifying the urban landscape.
Horse-drawn streetcars or trams lasted for a few decades, but the horses were gradually replaced, first by steam, then electricity, which brought other changes. The concept of a right to transportation for all led to the creation of the Paris metro,
following the lead of the London underground, for which construction had begun in 1860. After great debate, the first line finally opened in 1900.
Engraving celebrating the inauguration of the railroad line in Reims, 1854.