Organized Session

Genres of Scientific Knowledge

Organizer

Daniela S. Barberis

North Central College

Chair

Emily Hutcheson

University of Wisconsin Madison

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Session Abstract

Scientific texts are not just vehicles for arguments but cultural artifacts that produce and circulate particular modes and objects of knowledge. Analyzing the genres of science requires unpacking and clarifying how scientific arguments are made, communicated, and received in different times and places. This session will explore how genre conventions affect how scientific knowledge is produced and disseminated and how these conventions developed over time. How does genre affect the practice of science, the production of scientific knowledge and authority, and the reception of scientific arguments and evidence? What does genre tell us about the practitioners of science themselves, their intentions and limitations? Our panel brings together participants from a range of disciplines (history of science, media studies, religious studies) representing case studies from the early modern period to the early 20th century. We consider how genres are embedded in scientific, social, and institutional networks, their roles in local and global knowledge production and dissemination, and how they affect the popularization of science.

Presenter 1

A Doctor's Note: Paolo Zacchia and the Development of Medico-legal Consilia

Julia Reed

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

Abstract

The oft-cited father of forensic medicine, the seventeenth-century papal physician and lawyer Paolo Zacchia (1584-1659), defended the superior expertise of the physician who, by "incessantly pursu[ing] the works of nature," was uniquely able to provide authoritative evidence in civil and criminal courts. Zacchia's magnum opus, Quaestiones medico-legales (1621 and many subsequent editions), includes 85 Latin consilia (consultations) drawing on authorities of learned medicine that apply the medical theories of the Quaestiones to individual cases. In this paper, I explore the genre of the medico-legal consilium in Zacchia's Quaestiones in relation to the older genre of the medical consilium, which was mostly used in teaching how to diagnose and treat patients in academic medicine. Medico-legal consilia, on the other hand, were not aimed at diagnosis for the purposes of treatment, but at determining the particular causes of events under legal dispute: death, paternity, pregnancy and childbirth, virginity, impotence, madness, monsters, and miracles. Looking at the structure and development of the medico-legal consilium before Zacchia's Quaestiones, and at his innovative use of the genre, I argue that Zacchia's consilia authorized the physician as an expert witness during the professionalization of forensic medicine in the seventeenth century. For Zacchia, the medico-legal consilium expressed and consolidated the specific kind of scientific knowledge and authority possessed by the well-trained Christian physician, based in observational diligence, philosophical training, practical medical experience, and legal authority over other kinds of evidence and testimony. Finally, I show how medico-legal consilia were crucial vectors of ecclesiastical power during the Catholic Reformation, positioning the physician expert witness as the authority on nature across medical, legal, social, and religious contexts.

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Presenter 2

The Localization and Embodiment of the Environment in Early South Carolina Medicine

Alyssa Peterson

University of Texas Austin

Abstract

Early medicine in the American colonies was entangled with the environment from very early on. Physicians like South Carolina's David Ramsay often recommended locally-derived medicines alongside imported drugs, demonstrating both an increasing reliance on the local environment and a more 'homegrown' interpretation of larger medical theories. I look at the use of medical geographies as a way of disseminating localized medicines and as an example of the strong link between medicine and the environment that permeated and influenced early American medical knowledge. Information from abroad was not rejected because physicians believed America to be exceptional; instead, we can see that physicians drew heavily upon circulating European ideas of medicine. They contextualized and transformed these imported theories based upon their local environment and then utilized medical geographies to spread the information to a larger audience. I use Ramsay's writings on the suggested substitutions of local plants for the exotic drug cinchona as an example of such localization. His medical geography also demonstrates the way that people used their bodies as a means of understanding their environments, as local remedies were found based on the accepted European idea that 'bitterness' was the effective element of cinchona. The substitution of local plants for exotic medications was not a way of disregarding European medicine but was instead a way of incorporating and localizing European theories into the South Carolinian environment. The strong link between the environment and medicine was demonstrated and disseminated in the genre of medical geographies, which served to reinforce the localization of European medicinal theories.

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Presenter 3

It Is Only What Comes from Us That Is Of Value: Creating Sociology Through Book Reviewing

Daniela S. Barberis

North Central College

Abstract

The foundation of the Année sociologique journal (1898) played a pivotal role in the institutionalization of Durkheimian sociology in France. The journal was formed of two main parts, the mémoires originaux (original articles) and analyses (book reviews). The reviews were conceived as a means to an end by Durkheim and his collaborators; they were not simply reporting on the work of a particular author, but highlighting what they themselves saw as valuable to the construction of sociology in his work, thus presenting their point of view and their work methods to the public through the critique of the work of others. Reviewing was conceived as a creative task, albeit one done using an impersonal and scientific method-a method spelled out by Durkheim in the Rules. It is also significant that the Durkheimian group was very much aware of the role of the book review, i.e., this is their own description of their practice. Durkheim, as the hub of the enterprise, reviewed all submissions, suggested revisions and insisted on examining everything in the smallest detail. This extensive work of editing formed the style of professional reviews of his collaborators. A large part of this work of editing was conducted via correspondence, due to the geographical distance between the members of the group. This paper examines the practices of writing in the genre of the book review, how it affected the practice of sociology as a science, and how the journal's reception was significant to the success of the group.

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Presenter 4

Fictional Writing and Listening - The "Verein für Museen" of Biologist Günter Tembrock

Sophia Graefe

Philipps-University Marburg

Abstract

When the East German behavioral biologist Günter Tembrock (1918-2011) founded the "Research Centre for Animal Psychology" at the Zoological Institute of the Humboldt University in 1948, the discussion and publication of theoretical findings regarding innate aspects of behavior, flourishing elsewhere, remained a major challenge for the discipline. In the 1950s, the newly emerging socialist state was fighting the legacy of Nazi racial doctrine. At the same time, research oriented toward Pavlov's reflex theories, which favored the influence of external, ultimately social, factors on behavior, had the upper hand. This challenge is apparent not only in Tembrock's correspondence, it is especially clear in a rare collection of archival materials that have been neglected in the literature. Until the late 1950s, Tembrock wrote a large number of unpublished scientific texts for a fictitious research community and for invented academic journals. These texts contain crucial political and philosophical considerations that are missing in Tembrock's official texts. Under the guise of authors affiliated with the "Verein für Museen" [Museum Association] and writing in a formal, academic style, Tembrock considered not only the behavior of animals, but also matters like the freedom of will, the conditions of knowledge, and the role of science in confronting the power of political 'leaders'.
My paper classifies this form of fiction as a specific kind of genre for scientific knowledge production. It will distinguish this particular example of fictional writing from concepts of 'science fiction' and 'pseudo-science'. The paper will also deal with other imaginary writings from the "Verein für Museen"- portraits, obituaries, statutes, indexes of names, and chronicles-both as a test case for the rules of scientific writing, and as a quasi-ethological draft of a scientific self in the explosive scientific-political context of behavioral science in East Germany.

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