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Storied Objects, Scientific Objects, and Renaissance Experiment: The Case of Malleable Glass

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Vera Keller*
University of Oregon


The career of storied objects can help highlight the agency of absence and historicize the notion of scientific objects more generally. Until the sixteenth century, lost, ancient flexible glass was studied separately from malleable glass. The latter appeared as a claimed chymical product and craft recipe. The bridging of social and epistemic registers merged these accounts. Malleable glass became a prestigious scientific object. Appearing in numerous utopias, it stimulated a participatory public of scientific amateurs. Such storied objects served as vectors for spreading experimental culture, yet declined as new professions emerged. The charisma that made malleable glass a seventeenth-century scientific object led to its rejection by newly professionalized eighteenth-century chemists and its replacement by a less evocative scientific object, “malleability.”

Research Article
Copyright © 2017 Renaissance Society of America

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