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‘Nature’ in the laboratory: domestication and discipline with the microscope in Victorian life science

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009

Graeme Gooday
Affiliation:
Unit for History of Science, Physics Laboratory, University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NR, England.

Extract

What sort of activities took place in the academic laboratories developed for teaching the natural sciences in Britain between the 1860s and 1880s? What kind of social and instrumental regimes were implemented to make them meaningful and efficient venues of experimental instruction? As humanly constructed sites of experiment how were the metropolitan institutional contexts of these laboratories engineered to make them legitimate places to study ‘Nature’? Previous studies have documented chemists' effective use of regimented quantitative analysis in their laboratory teaching from the 1820s, but less is known about how Victorian academics made other sorts of laboratories unproblematic pedagogical spaces. This paper will examine the literary, disciplinary and instrumental technologies of microscopy deployed by T. H. Huxley at his South Kensington laboratory during the early 1870s to render his biology teaching legitimate, meaningful and efficient. As such it is a response to Pickstone's recent call for a broader account of microscopy teaching in late nineteenth-century academic life science, and one localized answer to Bennett's enquiries as to what the appearance of a microscope in laboratories and other domestic settings betokened to historical actors, and how such tokens changed over time.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © British Society for the History of Science 1991

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References

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119 Ibid.

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