Reading about the history of objectivity

Im in the last pages of Objectivity from Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison.

In this book the autors chart the emergence of objectivity in the mid-nineteenth-century sciences—and show how the concept differs from its alternatives, truth-to-nature and trained judgment. This is a story of lofty epistemic ideals fused with workaday practices in the making of scientific images.

Im glad to discover the threatened reading of this analysis from the eighteenth through the early twenty-first centuries, the images that reveal the deepest commitments of the empirical sciences—from anatomy to crystallography—are those featured in scientific atlases, the compendia that teach practitioners what is worth looking at and how to look at it. Galison and Daston use atlas images to uncover a hidden history of scientific objectivity and its rivals. Whether an atlas maker idealizes an image to capture the essentials in the name of truth-to-nature or refuses to erase even the most incidental detail in the name of objectivity or highlights patterns in the name of trained judgment is a decision enforced by an ethos as well as by an epistemology. 

I don't now if all the members of this site are working in this type of study, but ist a great recommendation to understand a little more about the history and use of such concepts as present in our science.

Views: 81


You need to be a member of Open Anthropology Cooperative to add comments!

Comment by Diego Ballestero on March 20, 2012 at 2:54pm

Hi Keith:

Thank you again for your comments and predisposition to help the members of this group.

Now i writting the third chapter of my Phd and I looking something about the Torres Strait Expedition and the consequences of anthropological observations in the construction of the Fuegian Indians

I writte an e-mail in this days to share in best form my toughts

Comment by Keith Hart on March 20, 2012 at 2:30pm

I got interested in Rivers after Anna Grimshaw and I launched our Prickly Pear pamphlets with Anthropology and the crisis of the intellectuals in the early 90s and pushed him as a neglected founder of British social anthropology. I organized a Cambridge conference, Anthropology and Psychology, to mark the centenary of the Torres Straits expedition in 1998. My paper from that can be found here. It reflects a lot of work on Rivers and yes I was hoping to write a biography of him. I was inspired by Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy of novels about him. I also had access to his archive in my own college, St. John's. But life moves on and I missed the moment. I doubt if I will go back to it. I also have an amateur interest in the history of science which I wrote about here. I would be glad for us to share thoughts by email (better than the Ning messaging service) at

Comment by Diego Ballestero on March 20, 2012 at 2:05pm

Hi Keith:

Thank you sou much for your great comment and data!

Are you working now in  the life and work of William Rivers? Because I care about this topic. If you are doing I would glad to collaborate.

This crossing between social science and biology in the middle of the 19th its one of the most important ruptures en the devolpment of the anthropological sciences. I been looking in the french and especially in the german cases.

About the book of Galison ist funny because I bought it yesterday and have to be to come these days.

Thank for your comment!

Comment by Keith Hart on March 20, 2012 at 1:47pm

Hi Diego, I have long been interested in this question and wrote about it here at the OAC on a couple of occasions. This link is to the Fiction group a year ago and it points to the 1840s as a critical moment of transition when William Whewell invented the word scientist and Edgar Allan Poe launched several hoaxes in the hope of exposing the flimsy basis of the claim to objectivity. My friend John Tresch has a book coming out in June, The Romantic Machine, about the same period in France when scientific and magical theories mixed together freely. One link is Baudelaire who translated Poe. I also spent some time looking into the life and work of William Rivers who has a claim to be the founder of both modern anthropology and psychology in Britain. He conducted neurological experiments on himself (the Rivers-Head experiments) just after 1900 because he felt that trained subjectivity was essential to accurate description of nerve regeneration. So I share your enthusiasm for topic. Peter Galeson is any case a great historian of science. Did you see Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps?


OAC Press



© 2020   Created by Keith Hart.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service