Chapter

A New Natural History

in Landscapes and Labscapes

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780226450094
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226450117 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226450117.003.0002
A New Natural History

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Rapid expansion of laboratories and experimental disciplines after the 1850s created a zone of tension between an expansive, confident scientific culture and an older culture of field science that was cast as old fashioned and pushed to the periphery of the new scientific world. The dynamics of the lab–field border began to change around the turn of the century, and in the following decades an uneasy frontier gradually evolved into a zone of interaction and mixed border practices. In the United States, this change was marked initially by a spate of public pronouncements by leading biologists that the laboratory movement had gone too far and that it would be to all biologists' advantage to combine the older natural history with the more recent experimental tradition. Calls for a “new” natural history were thus partly a symptom of grassroots changes in practice. The new natural history was an imagined future, not a lived present, and was a stimulus and cause of changes in practice. It takes ideological work to justify new ways of doing science, and to encourage individuals to choose new and risky ways over the tried and true.

Keywords: natural history; laboratory; grassroots changes; scientific world; biologists

Chapter.  15269 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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