Chapter

Experiments in Nature

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/9780226450117.003.0005
Experiments in Nature

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Experiment, unlike counting or mensuration, is an activity designed specifically for laboratory environments. Its power is realized only in simplified and controlled environments, and it is difficult to replicate such places in nature. Experiment carries heavier cultural baggage, and its use in the field is more likely to be contested than counting or measuring. Promoters of the new natural history argued that both experiment and observation were limited, and that the ideal was a combination of the two. Biologists applied experimental methods naively to field problems because they deferred too readily to the superior standing of laboratory science and lacked confidence in traditional field practices—habits formed when the new naturalists first occupied the lab–field border. The first border biologists expected that their future as a community would be an experimental one, that field observation and survey were a preliminary (though necessary) stage in the evolution of their disciplines which would be superseded by precision measurement and experiment.

Keywords: experiments; nature; observation; measurement; biologists

Chapter.  15870 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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