|HoST 4th Annual Workshop|
Lisbon, 14-15 December 2009
Places of Modern Science: situated laboratories, dispersed artifacst
Spatial issues are a major subject in the historiography of science. Historians have become increasingly suspicious of accounts portraying scientific activity as a placeless mental endeavour belonging to the ethereal realm of ideas, concepts and theories; leaving aside any concern with the low spheres of practices, instruments and facilities. Multiple laboratory ethnographies were particularly good in revealing the significance of looking at local dimensions of knowledge production. And it is now difficult to separate many modern scientists from their urban settings. Who would dare today to speak about Faraday ignoring his London context, about Helmholtz and being oblivious about Berlin, or about Einstein and not mentioning Bern? But historians of science have also explored how such located knowledge was put into circulation through standardization procedures that enabled its dispersion through multiple scales. Together with a geographical horizontal dispersion of the institution of the modern laboratory through many different countries came a social vertical dispersion that made laboratory artifacts a key component of modern life. This workshop intends to explore the tensions between the local and ubiquitous character of modern science. Its main motivation lays on the conviction that delving into such tension has a great potential for illuminating the role of modern science in modern society thus helping to make history of science narratives more relevant for general history.