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Laboratory Life - continued...


Laboratories

It is not surprising that Latour chose the laboratory. The success story of the experimental life sciences, which finally turned them into the leading scientific paradigm of our time, began a long century earlier, while the first physiological laboratories were being constructed. The laboratory laboratory scene offered a space where research could proceed in a controlled and undisturbed manner, a highly artificial environment, that has been crucial ever since for the emergence of experimental sciences. "Every experimental science requires a laboratory", Claude Bernard wrote in the 1860s. "There the man of science withdraws, and by means of experimental analysis tries to understand phenomena that he has observed in nature." (Bernard 1957, 140) The physiologists' withdrawal from nature during the 19th century led from the domestic kitchen table past the clinic's broom closet to the fully equipped experimentation site in one of the newly-founded physiological institutes. It stands metonymically for the emergence of an experimental life science, which, in Claude Bernard's words, was all about "foreseeing and directing phenomena", in contrast to disordered nature. Nature consisted of unforeseen incidents, noise, and romping children, disturbing the scientist at his kitchen table. (Bernard 1957, 57) Laboratories, much like mathematical formula, were, as Husserl would put it some decades later, a way of retreating from the life-world.

Reference: Felsch, Philipp. 2003. Laboratory Life. How Physiologists Discovered their Everyday.. The Virtual Laboratory (ISSN 1866-4784), http://vlp.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/references?id=art12&page=p0003