The Invention Of The Modern World

820 WordsNov 1, 20144 Pages
In almost every scientific discipline, complex, specialised instrumentation has been considered important, if not integral to scientific development. As the scientific developed and professionalised, instrumentation integrated yet further into the social routine of formal laboratory work and, arguably, became endemic within the fabric of everyday late industrial life1. This state of affairs has persisted since at least the late nineteenth century2. In some cases, instrumentation has almost subsumed the individual scientist within historical narrative. It is impossible to imagine classic depictions of the great 'myth ' of Galileo without the obligatory appearance of at least one of his telescopes3, or a sketch of Newton without his refracting prism. Celebration of material apparatus has been an enduring theme, particularly in more poplar depictions of the “process” of scientific progress. Today, the seemingly incomprehensibly complex microscope or (now orbital) telescope are still instantly recognisable, as visual shorthand for the sharpest points within the material armoury of the scientist. It is therefore undeniable that from the genesis of Western modernity in the sixteenth century there has been a near obsession with developing, enhancing and portraying devices of observation, measurement and quantification. Yet the literary examination and incorporation of scientific instruments into narrative and displays of physical heritage has been a convoluted and (at times)
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