Specialeeksamen: Marcus Lee Naldal

Textbooks and Knowledge Infrastructures of Copenhagen Chemistry, c.1820-1850

19.06.2018 | Randi Mosegaard

Dato fre 29 jun
Tid 13:15 14:30
Sted Aud D4 (1531-219)


This master's thesis discusses the role and functions of textbooks in knowledge infrastructures. My thesis introduces the distinction between indicators and factors from conceptual history to textbooks and textbook studies. It is argued that there exists a tradition which mainly considers textbooks as indicative instead of being both. My master's thesis has two main parts consisting of a number of subsections. The first main part is concerned with providing an overview of previous historiography and suggesting new approaches. I present my arguments for the existence of an indicative tradition of textbook studies, and I present a reevaluation of textbooks in studies from the 2000s. In order to conceive textbooks as active I employ P.N. Edwards' notion of knowledge infrastructures. Knowledge infrastructures expand the list of elements participating in networks beyond the social to include identities, norms, and physical elements like the textbook. Knowledge infrastructures provide a framework for seeing textbooks as active. I argue that textbooks may serve as infrastructural elements or actively manipulate knowledge infrastructures. I also present some theoretical arguments for analyzing textbooks as part of knowledge infrastructures, e.g. the concepts of gateways and entry points. The second main part is to substantiate my theoretical argument. In three empirical analyses I analyze textbooks written and translated by three Danish chemists during the early establishment of chemistry at the university of Copenhagen and the Polytechnic College. I analyze how textbooks were used to demarcate chemistry as a discipline, how textbooks discussed atomism, and finally how textbooks could function in relation to the practical training of chemists. This master's thesis argues that textbooks are indicator-factors. They have been used by actors to assert identities, form new generations of practitioners, and to standardize actions. Furthermore, it argues that a viable way of studying this is through the vocabulary of knowledge infrastructures.

Vejleder: Kristian Hvidtfelt Nielsen