Chapter

Places of Precision

in When Physics Became King

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780226542010
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226542003 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226542003.003.0008
Places of Precision

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This chapter looks at the rise of the laboratory and the development of precision measurement as the hallmark of experimental physics. Precision mattered for late nineteenth-century physics as a way of inculcating new disciplinary regimes as much as anything else. It was a crucial element in the fashioning of physicists as much as of physics. In the new academic teaching laboratories, the transmission of skills from mentor to student was a highly regimented process. Laboratory teaching, as well as what was taught, was increasingly standardized. The values of precision linked the world of late Victorian energy physics and its laboratories to the world of industry as well. Not only did the standardized electrical units produced in these laboratories have an immediate role to play in electrical industry, but the work regime and the ethos that had produced those units blended easily with those of industrial culture too. Spreading the values of precision meant multiplying and disseminating the places of precision and its duly trained adepts too.

Keywords: sciences; physics; precision measurement; physicists

Chapter.  13046 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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