Raf De Bont, "Stations in the Field: A History of Place-Based Animal Research, 1870-1930" (U Chicago Press, 2015)


While museums, labs, and botanical gardens have been widely studied by historians of science, field stations have received comparatively little attention.Raf De Bont's new book rectifies this oversight, turning our attention to the importance of biological field stations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in generating new scientific practices, theories, and networks. Stations in the Field: A History of Place-Based Animal Research, 1870-1930 (University of Chicago Press, 2015) focuses on the German- and French-speaking scientific community in Europe, looking at a number of influential case studies that collectively embody what de Bont calls a "station movement" in this period. Exploring the relationship between these field stations and a notion of "experimentalism" embraced therein, de Bont usefully undermines a tendency to focus on laboratories as sites of experimentation in the history of science. The stations ranged in kind from very technologically sophisticated marine labs to cabins in the woods, from urban Naples to the isolated beaches of France to the birdlands of East Prussia. Some of the practices cultivated at these sites spread into a wider political and intellectual economy, transforming disciplines and spaces of inquiry and education in the process. It's a fascinating study that offers readers a more robust and complex understanding of the spaces of modern science and their entangled histories.

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