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Collecting ExperimentsMaking Big Data Biology$
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Bruno J. Strasser

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226634999

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226635187.001.0001

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Collecting Experiments

Bruno J. Strasser

University of Chicago Press

For most of the twentieth century, experimental scientists' narrow focus on selected model organisms stood in sharp contrast with the broad diversity of organisms studied by naturalists. For historians and scientists, research in collections such as those housed in museums came to be viewed as distinctive to the naturalist enterprise, in contrast to the experimentalist's focus on model organisms. This chapter argues that stating the opposition this way is too simplistic. It shows the crucial role that collections of live organisms have played in the development of the experimental life sciences. Looking specifically at the development of collections of bacteria, such as the American Type Culture Collection, to support research in microbiology, and the development of "stock" collections of mice, corn, flies and other organisms for research genetics, this chapter shows that they all relied on a specific moral economy, based on the open sharing of knowledge and organisms, and formalized in newsletters. In addition to stabilizing the natural world by providing an agreed- upon ontology for the collective production of knowledge, these collections stabilized the social world of research communities.

Keywords:   model organism, microbiology, genetics, newsletter, stock collection, moral economy

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