Aspects of the History of Instrumentation in the Neurosciences at Rockefeller University: Nobelists Herbert Gasser and H. Keffer Hartline

by Darwin Stapleton

Jan 1, 2010
This examination of the importance of scientific instruments in the history of the neurosciences begins with the premise that the role of instrumentation in the history of medicine and the history of science in general has been underreported. I suggest that the history of science and the history of medicine have overplayed the conceptualization of research projects, and the pursuit of theoretical confirmation, and have underplayed the central role of instrumentation. In fact, two historians of instrumentation have argued that, for the history of science, "the philosophical debate over whether theory drives experiment or experiment drives theory has tended to obscure the independent role of instruments in science." Looking backward into the early modern period, the eminent historian of science Derek de Solla Price stated that "the scientific revolution… was largely the invention […,] improvement [,] and use of a series of instruments of revelation that expanded the reach of science in innumerable directions."
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