Scientific article
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Abraham Trembley's Strategy of Generosity and the Scope of Celebrity in the Mid-Eighteenth Century

ContributorsRatcliff, Marc
Published inIsis, vol. 95, no. 4, p. 555-575
Publication date2004

Historians of science have long believed that Abraham Trembley's celebrity and impact were attributable chiefly to the incredible regenerative phenomena demonstrated by the polyp, which he discovered in 1744, and to the new experimental method he devised to investigate them. This essay shows that experimental method alone cannot account for Trembley's success and influence; nor are the marvels of the polyp sufficient to explain its scientific and cultural impact. Experimental method was but one element in a new conception of the laboratory that called for both experimental and para-experimental skills whose public availability depended on a new style of communication. The strategy of generosity that led Trembley to dispatch polyps everywhere enabled experimental naturalist laboratories to spread throughout Europe, and the free circulation of living objects for scientific research led practitioners to establish an experimental field distinct from mechanical physics. Scholars reacted to the marvels of the polyp by strengthening the boundaries between the public and academic spheres and, in consequence, opened a space for new standards in both scientific work and the production of celebrity.

  • Histoire des sciences de la vie
  • Savants genevois
  • Abraham Trembley
  • Martin Folkes
  • Réaumur
  • Réseaux de correspondance
  • Laboratoire
  • Histoire de la communication scientifique
  • Paraexpérimentation
  • Savants européens
  • 18e siècle
Citation (ISO format)
RATCLIFF, Marc. Abraham Trembley’s Strategy of Generosity and the Scope of Celebrity in the Mid-Eighteenth Century. In: Isis, 2004, vol. 95, n° 4, p. 555–575.
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Article (Published version)
  • PID : unige:37207
ISSN of the journal0021-1753

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