Although experimentation has been a staple feature of modern science since the seventeenth century, it was only recently, during the 1980s, that experimental practice attracted the attention of historians and philosophers of science. This project aims to address some of the salient historiographical and philosophical issues concerning experiment and its relation to theory that emerged in that period. We argue that the history and philosophy of experimentation reflects a promising shift from an exclusive preoccupation with the end products of scientific activity to a systematic investigation of that activity itself. This shift has led to a novel view of science. Science, on this view, is not simply a changing body of knowledge, codified in textbooks and research papers, but an evolving array of practices. Those practices have many aspects. Besides those familiar to philosophers of science, such as the formulation and testing of theories, there are other more 'pedestrian' aspects, such as the design and construction of instruments, the statistical analysis of experimental results, the management of collaborative large-scale experimentation, the preparation and the circulation of materials used on the laboratory bench. Bringing these other aspects front and center the project aims to unravel, in addition to philosophical issues, the intricacy of science and technology as it is manifested in the laboratory and outside of it and the ways both scientists and non scientists have affected experimental practices in complex historical circumstances. To investigate those issues we will cross examine specific experimental objects and materials of the physical and life sciences. Our guiding question is whether the experimental objects and materials of the physical sciences differ from, in important ways, or resemble those of the life sciences.
Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Theodore Arabatzis, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Maria Rentetzi, National Technical University of Athens
The programme is funded by the IKYDA.
(For more information on the participation of the Division of the History of Science and Technology, contact Theodore Arabatzis, tarabatz at phs.uoa.gr)