- Harvard University
Centralizing the Scientific Machine: Classification and the Catalogue of the Sciences at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
At the turn of the twentieth century, the Royal Society of London organized a massive publishing venture, the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature, to track and regulate the circulation of print matter in the sciences. The ICSL was an endeavor to develop, through international cooperation, a dynamic map of the sciences by following patterns of print communication; the "scientific machine" was to be made a subject of empirical investigation, and also, perhaps, subjected to more rational and centralized control. Problems of management and bibliography merged with traditionally philosophical and methodological problems of classification in, and of, the sciences, and ultimately changed the way that scientists and others conceived the nature, and grounds of legitimacy, of natural knowledge.
Regulating the Scientific Machine: Print, Classification, and Community in the Natural Sciences, 1889-1920
During the nineteenth century, periodical publications gradually took on roles in the social life of science—such as peer-review, the adjudication of priority, and the evaluation of professional qualifications—that had once been the domain of collectives such as the Royal Society and the Académie des Sciences. This project unearths the enormous labor that went into buttressing the credibility and the boundaries of the specialized periodical literature as it thus became a central site for delineating scientific authorship and expertise near the century’s end. At the core of these efforts was the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature, an intergovernmental organization for locating, recording, and classifying all “original contributions to science.” Its founders aimed to bring into view a dynamic, topographical landscape of scientific life through the lens provided by a classified archive of knowledge in print. Reimagining scientific serials offered an opportunity to re-engineer scientific virtue itself.