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CSS colloquium - Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Berlin: "Cultures of Experiment"

Info about event


Monday 24 September 2012,  at 10:15 - 12:00

It is generally accepted that the development of the modern sciences is rooted in experiment. Yet for a long time, experimentation did not occupy a prominent role in history of science. With the "practical turn" in science studies, this situation has changed. This paper is concerned with a particular aspect of scientific practice, which can be addressed as "cultures of experiment".

In the first part of the paper, I will have a close look at a particular experimental culture in the life sciences: biological in vitro, or test tube experimentation. I will characterize and follow, over the course of the twentieth century, some of the different forms that analyzing biological functions in the test tube took. I will also trace the opposition that these experimental moves encountered. An early form of in vitro experimentation was based on homogenates of cells. It was paralleled by tissue cultures in the test tube. From the 1930s on, fractionation of cellular contents became predominant, in conjunction with the purification of particular substances.

In the second part of the paper, the notion of culture will be scrutinized, and a suggestion will be made as to the historiographical potential of the concept of experimental culture. It can – among other things - be helpful in transcending the traditional history of disciplines.

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