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Despite its widespread practical use in the everyday language of life scientists in particular, the concept has for a long time not been analyzed with respect to its historiographical and epistemological usefulness for the description of the modern research process. We can find first hints at such a use in the writings of Ludwik Fleck (1979 [1935]), although he did not make a systematic terminological use of it. Fleck has stressed the fact that the research process is based on a stream of experiments, not on isolated experimental acts. It is only at the beginning of the 1990s and in the context of an ongoing replacement of theory-dominated perspectives of scientific change by practice-driven views on research that the concept of experimental systems has found entrance into the historical and philosophical literature on science (Rheinberger 1992, Rheinberger and Hagner 1993, Rheinberger 1997). In the same general context and for slightly varying purposes, notions such as “manipulable systems” (Turnbull and Stokes 1990), “production systems” (Kohler 1991), and “experimental model systems” (Amann 1994) have also been used.

Reference: Rheinberger, Hans-Jörg. 2004. Experimental Systems. The Virtual Laboratory (ISSN 1866-4784), http://vlp.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/references?id=enc19&page=p0002