Scientific article
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Wonders, Logic, and Microscopy in the Eighteenth Century: A History of the Rotifer

ContributorsRatcliff, Marc
Published inScience in context, vol. 13, no. 1, p. 93-119
Publication date2009-12-17
First online date2009-12-17

The Argument

Contrary to the dominant historiography of microscopy, which tends to maintain that there was no microscopical program in the Enlightenment, this paper argues that there was such a program and attempts to illustrate one aspect of its dynamic character. The experiments, observations, and interpretations on rotifers and their management by scholars of that period show that there did exist a precise axis of research that can be followed historically. Indeed, the various controversies these scholars engaged in imply that they performed accurate microscopical experiments and observations and also carefully interpreted their visual data. Furthermore, the kinds of phenomena presented by the rotifer and other microscopic entities, such as their morphology or their revival from desiccation, helped to improve methodology on the use of the microscope. The paper also argues that this sort of inquiry is not fundamentally different from other research in the natural sciences of the eighteenth century.

  • History of cognition
  • Lazzaro Spallanzani
  • History of microscopy
  • Visual studies
  • Henry Baker
  • Rotifer
  • Antony Van Leeuwenhoek
  • Louis Joblot
  • August Johann Rosël von Rosenhoef
  • Eighteenth century science
  • Felice Fontana
Citation (ISO format)
RATCLIFF, Marc. Wonders, Logic, and Microscopy in the Eighteenth Century: A History of the Rotifer. In: Science in context, 2009, vol. 13, n° 1, p. 93–119. doi: 10.1017/S0269889700003732
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0269-8897

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