Astrophysics was born in the nineteenth century as a “New Astronomy” (in the words of Samuel Langley, 1884), a knowledge built primarily by amateurs who explored deep space by studying the Sun, stars and nebulae. They were credible enough to interest physicists who did research on the properties of radiation and hence came to constitute a solid and recognised discipline. The aim of this research is to study the contribution of artisanal knowledge in the construction of this new discipline at two distinct moments. The first, when artisans worked to find a standard to normalise the manufacture of the glass with which the lenses of refracting telescopes were manufactured. The most recognised of these artisans was Fraunhöfer. The second moment occurred when the experience of artisan knowledge enabled the manufacture of instruments that improved the traditional classification of the magnitude of the stars. The search for standards led to an alliance between artisans and scientists during the same period in which spectroscopy was carried out. In this case, a unit of luminous intensity was sought that could serve as a standard to classify the stars by their luminosity. Industries, university laboratories and astronomers interested in solar astronomy (such as Karl F. Zöllner), collaborated with the artisan manufacturers of measuring devices, and gave rise to a paradigmatic case of science and industry transfer.
Our aim is to explore the links between standardisation, the quantifying spirit, and the discipline mathematics. To do so, we consider the work of Gauss, renowned as a pure mathematician, but professionally an astronomer, and one heavily engaged with all kinds of measuring and precision initiatives. He contributed to the mathematical correction of data with the method of least squares; to observations of high precision in his geodetic work; to the introduction of absolute measures in his collaborations with Weber on terrestrial magnetism; and to the rationalisation of weights and measures in the state of Hannover. Ultimately, the question is to what extent such precision and standardisation activities may have been rooted in the mathematical way of thinking. Mathematics in our tradition has had a strong contemplative bias (theory, theorein in Greek means to contemplate), but it’s a fact that mathematics has always had a non-eliminable technical side.
The wide railway universe, with its particular and peculiar characteristics, requires the implementation of criteria to improve the identification and conservation of cultural goods. Recently concepts of authenticity, integrity and cultural significance have been identified as fundamental in the selection of the cultural heritage of humanity. Although we find these concepts being analyzed in theory as independents, through a theoretical-methodological reflection, this PhD research argues that, in practice, they are interconnected, and therefore should be approached together. Following the contemporary theory of conservation, my doctoral research aims at contributing to the conservation of railways’ heritage using this new approach, by proposing new indicators as assessment tools so that conservation institutions will be able to identify railway goods as cultural heritage. The research uses the Railway Complex of Barreiro, in Portugal, as a case study.
Standards are linked to specifications about scaling, safety, feasibility and suitability. The threshold setting process defines the environment in which the standards are meaningful to a given community and the conditions of vulnerability implied by their absence. This paper will discuss the role of standards in defining safety conditions for endangered bird species in urban environments and in designing closed environments for polio patients during the 1950s, the infamous iron lungs, which are still rarely used today. The aim is to explore how standards are involved in defining preservation strategies and the shortcomings of their systematic implementation in this regard. The interdependence of technological standards and the increasing amount of information handled are joining cultural assemblages to question the objectives of preservation in artificial environments, urging the question of what we are preserving. This raises the issue of the relationship between stabilisations through epistemic tools and ontological continuity and robustness in dense technological environments.
The first reliable pattern of the human chromosome set was manufactured between the late 1950s and early 1960s. This paper will account for the historical background of such reliability, of the production of a reference, an image, the schematic figure – the ideogram – that represented what would from then on be held in the minds of medical practitioners and laboratory scientists of human cytogenetics as the cytological identity of being human. Human genetics as a history of images and the skills of drawing, making photo(micro) graphs and diagrams, developed through a reference drawn on the basis of the consensus reached by a small group of early human cytogeneticists in Denver in 1960. Schemes and idealizations, as well as the fully realistic transposition of the contours and interiors of each chromosome, participated in the emergence of a particular, specific and enduring way of representing the tiny parts of the cell where division began, and accounting for both the forms and function of chromosomes at the origins of medical genetics.
This study examines the introduction of prescriptive pesticide technologies into Scandinavian family gardens. It analyses pesticide propaganda and plant protection experts’ advice and instructions on the use of pesticides directed at amateur, home gardeners in Norway, Sweden and Denmark in the years between 1945 and 1952, the period when the new generation of synthetic pesticides was introduced in Scandinavia, and eagerly advocated by the leading experts of plant protection science. The sources investigated are gardening magazines and their special issues on garden instruction and the use of chemicals through the seasons, edited, published and distributed to a wide readership by national gardening associations. The study shows how the gardening associations in Scandinavia and their popular gardening magazines were major pushers of extensive pesticide spraying practices, with supporting epistemic logic, onto the numerous family gardeners of Scandinavia. Through these gardening associations both the state plant protection authorities and their scientific expertise and also the pesticide companies reached wide groups of citizens, across diverse professions, occupations and ways of life. This served to normalise the use of powerful poisons in small gardens and small-scale food production.