The Emergence of the Life Sciences Field: Discipline Formation in German and British Biology, 1750-1914
What are the social, cultural, and political underpinnings for the development of scientific knowledge? This research project addresses this question using the divergent trajectories of newly emerging life science disciplines in nineteenth-century Germany and Britain. Over the course of the century, the study of life became divided into exclusive university jurisdictions in Germany, while in Britain it remained organized as a broad and inclusive intellectual enterprise. The project brings together economic sociology and the sociology of knowledge to study discipline formation as a process that is inextricably both intellectual and political. Scientific disciplines, it suggests, emerge from dynamic and mutable coalitions of scientists attempting to mobilize patrons, audiences, and other actors around a shared conception of scientific knowledge. Using social network data on scientists’ careers, it shows that new life science disciplines succeeded where they forged alliances with more established specialties, but that the structure of those alliances differed considerably in Germany and Britain. The aim of the project is to publish a monograph comparing the emergence of the field of life sciences in each country. Project duration: October 2016 to August 2018.