Hans-Jörg RheinbergerMay 20, 2023
Split and Splice
A Phenomenology of Experimentation
University of Chicago Press 2023
In Split & Splice: A Phenomenology of Experimentation (University of Chicago Press, 2023), Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, investigates the “underworld” of experimentation and suggests new avenues for telling the history of experimental sciences.
Divided in two parts, respectively titled “Infra-Experimentality” and “Supra-Experimentality,” Split & Splice is an attempt at defining the phenomenological and historical contours of “experimentation as a knowledge-generating procedure.” The first part explores how researchers mix and match a variety of mediums, technological tools, and visualization techniques to produce new opportunities of knowledge-making. From nucleic acid sequence gels to structural models and experiment sheets, the reader is introduced to the contingency of the experimentation process and the series of fragmentation and mediation it requires. It is this realization that motivates the author’s historiographical considerations in the second part of the book. If the experimental process consists in a complex and changing interplay between various mediums, trace-generating techniques, and modes of visualization, then the narratives of the history of experimental sciences ought to be built around more or less extensive ensembles of experimental apparatus, rather than around retrospectively or abstractly-defined “objects” and “fields.”
In this new book, Rheinberger describes and makes visible the different layers and moving parts of the experimentation process in order to provide historians with new threads to follow and new ways of weaving their stories together.
Victor Monnin, Ph.D. is an historian of science specialized in the history of Earth sciences. He is also teaching French language and literature to undergraduates.