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Controlling Experiment

Controlling Experiment

(p.140) Chapter Eight Controlling Experiment
About Method
Jutta Schickore
University of Chicago Press

In the 1880s, venom served as a means to explore specific body functions, and the changes thus produced were recorded with novel kinds of recording devices. Venom was tested systematically with a battery of common chemical testing procedures. Venom was also being scrutinized for any microorganisms that it might contain, and these microorganisms were studied with the help of novel culturing techniques. There were dramatic changes in the preferred kinds of protocols. The chapter draws attention to the appearance of the concept of control in biomedical experimentation and compares scientists’ notions of control with Mill’s analysis of experimental methods. In the 1880s, increased efforts to control unwieldy experiments were the flipside of the encounters with variations, instability, and complexity. At the same time, there were complaints and expressions of concern about confusing and rambling medical writing. Medical men commenting on scientific writing called, above all, for brevity, conciseness, and telling titles. In the late nineteenth century, the ideal of quick access to information had trumped the late eighteenth-century notion that the narration of journeys of discovery could inspire the reader with confidence.

Keywords:   snake venom, experimentation, methods discourse, scientific medicine, experimental physiology, laboratory, control, Silas Weir Mitchell

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