Easily Cracked: Scientific Instruments in States of Disrepair

Isis 102:706-717 (2011)

Simon Schaffer
Cambridge University
There has been much scholarly attention to definitions of the term “scientific instrument.” Rather more mundane work by makers, curators, and users is devoted to instruments' maintenance and repair. A familiar argument holds that when a tool breaks, its character and recalcitrance become evident. Much can be gained from historical study of instruments' breakages, defects, and recuperation. Maintenance and repair technologies have been a vital aspect of relations between makers and other users. Their history illuminates systems of instruction, support, and abuse. These systems were, for example, evident in the development of astronomical instruments around 1800 within and beyond the European sphere. Episodes from that milieu are used to explore how instrument users sought autonomy, how instruments' mutable character was defined, and how judgments of instruments' failure or success were ever secured
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1086/663608
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 46,425
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Reflections on the Preservation of Recent Scientific Heritage in Dispersed University Collections.Nicholas Jardine - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (4):735-743.
How to Make a University History of Science Museum: Lessons From Leeds.Claire L. Jones - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (4):716-724.
Recycling in Early Modern Science.Simon Werrett - 2013 - British Journal for the History of Science 46 (4):627-646.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Apparatus and Experimentation Revisited.Trevor H. Levere - 2010 - Spontaneous Generations 4 (1):148-154.
Knowing and Doing in the Sixteenth Century: What Were Instruments For?Jim Bennett - 2003 - British Journal for the History of Science 36 (2):129-150.
The Reliability of an Instrument.Marcel Boumans - 2004 - Social Epistemology 18 (2 & 3):215 – 246.
Extended Thing Knowledge.Mathieu Charbonneau - 2010 - Spontaneous Generations 4 (1):116-128.


Added to PP index

Total views
10 ( #776,359 of 2,286,378 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #417,385 of 2,286,378 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature