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Thousands of Experiments

Thousands of Experiments

(p.87) Chapter Six Thousands of Experiments
About Method
Jutta Schickore
University of Chicago Press

Fontana’s renewed engagement with the subject of viper venom resulted in a massive study of more than 600 pages. Book II of the Treatise on the Venom of the Viper produced a new interpretation of the working of viper venom and turned to the exploration of the “hidden causes” of the observable effects of venom poisoning. The new book is again permeated by methods discourse. Fontana’s methodological statements became much more pointed and elaborate, and he drew them together in a methodological essay. Most early modern texts contained quite detailed and often vivid narratives of concrete experiments. Fontana’s commitment to variations turned the attention from single events to series of experiments and from the uniformity of outcomes to differences. This opened up new questions, both questions of experimental design and related questions of conceptualization, interpretation, and, ultimately, reporting: What are the factors need to be varied? What do the differences between different experiments tell us? How much of this work should be reported? And how should the report be organized? The chapter argues that Fontana’s sprawling account was meant to demonstrate the discoverability of empirical findings.

Keywords:   snake venom, experimentation, methods discourse, variation, circumstances, experimental reports: writing analytically, Felice Fontana

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