Packaging Radium, Selling Science: Boxes, Bottles and Other Mundane Things in the World of Science

Annals of Science 68 (3):375-399 (2011)
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Abstract

Summary This article discusses the intersection of science and culture in the marketplace and explores the ways in which radium quack and medicinal products were packaged and labelled in the early twentieth century US. Although there is an interesting growing body of literature by art historians on package design, historians of science and medicine have paid little to no attention to the ways scientific and medical objects that were turned into commodities were packaged and commercialized. Thinking about packages not as mere containers but as multifunctional tools adds to historical accounts of science as a sociocultural enterprise and reminds us that science has always been part of consumer culture. This paper suggests that far from being receptacles that preserve their content and facilitate their transportation, bottles and boxes that contained radium products functioned as commercial and epistemic devices. It was the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act that enforced such functions. Packages worked as commercial devices in the sense that they were used to boost sales. In addition, ‘epistemic’ points to the fact that the package is an artefact that ascribes meaning to and shapes its content while at the same time working as a device for distinguishing between patent and orthodox medicines.

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The demand for pregnancy testing: The Aschheim–Zondek reaction, diagnostic versatility, and laboratory services in 1930s Britain.Jesse Olszynko-Gryn - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 47:233-247.

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