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Split and Splice

A Phenomenology of Experimentation

An esteemed historian of science explores the diversity of scientific experimentation.
 
The experiment has long been seen as a test bed for theory, but in Split and Splice, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger makes the case, instead, for treating experimentation as a creative practice. His latest book provides an innovative look at the experimental protocols and connections that have made the life sciences so productive.
 
Delving into the materiality of the experiment, the first part of the book assesses traces, models, grafting, and note-taking—the conditions that give experiments structure and make discovery possible. The second section widens its focus from micro-level laboratory processes to the temporal, spatial, and narrative links between experimental systems. Rheinberger narrates with accessible examples, most of which are drawn from molecular biology, including from the author’s laboratory notebooks from his years researching ribosomes.
 
A critical hit when it was released in Germany, Split and Splice describes a method that involves irregular results and hit-or-miss connections—not analysis, not synthesis, but the splitting and splicing that form a scientific experiment. Building on Rheinberger’s earlier writing about science and epistemology, this book is a major achievement by one of today’s most influential theorists of scientific practice.

256 pages | 33 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2023

History: History of Technology

History of Science

Philosophy of Science

Reviews

“Perched between recursivity and transgression, precision and poetics—just like the research practices it discusses—this eagerly awaited volume is the ultimate exploration of the constellation of technologies, techniques, materials, and ‘savage moments’ that make experiments into a quintessential form of inquiry. Building on three decades of world-leading research in the history and philosophy of biology, Rheinberger shows how, in life as in science, experiments epitomize the human aspiration to intervene in the world with predictable results, and yet their power lies in exposing the limits of attempts to control and foresee the future. An unmissable read for anybody wishing to understand how science thrives by failing to carve nature at its joints.”

Sabina Leonelli, University of Exeter

“In this new book, drawing on his groundbreaking Toward a History of Epistemic Things, Rheinberger explores the logic of a ‘phenomenology of experimentation.’ Attentive to the materiality of science, it brings out the creative, epistemic, and collective dimensions of scientific production in experimental context. Written by a historian and philosopher of science trained in molecular biology, Split and Splice opens up the path to a genuine historical epistemology of the forms of scientific practices for the twenty-first century.”

Pierre-Olivier Méthot, Université Laval

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Introduction
 

Part I Infra-Experimentality

1 Traces

2 Models

3 Making Visible

4 Grafting

5 Protocols
 

Part II Supra-Experimentality

6 Shapes of Time

7 Experimental Cultures

8 Knowing and Narrating

9 Thinking Wild

10 A Eulogy of the Fragment

Postscript

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Index of Names

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