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Biographies of Scientific Objects

Why does an object or phenomenon become the subject of scientific inquiry? Why do some of these objects remain provocative, while others fade from center stage? And why do objects sometimes return as the focus of research long after they were once abandoned?

Addressing such questions, Biographies of Scientific Objects is about how whole domains of phenomena—dreams, atoms, monsters, culture, society, mortality, centers of gravity, value, cytoplasmic particles, the self, tuberculosis—come into being and sometimes pass away as objects of scientific study. With examples drawn from both the natural and social sciences, and ranging from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, this book explores the ways in which scientific objects are both real and historical. Whether discovered or invented, these objects of inquiry broaden and deepen in meaning—growing more "real"—as they become entangled in webs of cultural significance, material practices, and theoretical derivations. Thus their biographies will matter to anyone concerned with the formation of scientific knowledge.

Contributors are Jed Z. Buchwald, Lorraine Daston, Rivka Feldhay, Jan Goldstein, Gerard Jorland, Doris Kauffman, Bruno Latour, Theodore M. Porter, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Marshall Sahlins, and Peter Wagner.

319 pages | 7 halftones, 2 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 1999

History: European History

History of Science

Philosophy of Science

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Coming into Being of Scientific Objects
Lorraine Daston
1. Preternatural Philosophy
Lorraine Daston
2. Mathematical Entities in Scientific Discourse: Paulus Guldin and His Dissertatio de motu terrae
Rivka Feldhay
3. Dreams and Self-consciousness: Mapping the Mind in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries
Doris Kaufmann
4. Mutations of the Self in Old Regime and Postrevolutionary France: From Ame to Moi to le Moi
Jan Goldstein
5. The Coming into Being and Passing Away of Value Theories in Economics (1776-1976)
Gérard Jorland
6. "An Entirely New Object of Consciousness, of Volition, of Thought": The Coming into Being and (Almost) Passing Away of "Society" as a Scientific Object
Peter Wagner
7. "Sentimental Pessimism" and Ethnographic Experience: Or, Why Culture Is Not a Disappearing "Object"
Marshall Sahlins
8. How the Ether Spawned the Microworld
Jed Z. Buchwald
9. Life Insurance, Medical Testing, and the Management of Mortality
Theodore M. Porter
10. On the Partial Existence of Existing and Nonexisting Objects
Bruno Latour
11. Cytoplasmic Particles: The Trajectory of a Scientific Object
Hans-Jörg Rheinberger
List of Contributors

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