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The expertise of germs : practice, language and authority in American bacteriology, 1899-1924

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dc.contributor.advisor Deborah Fitzgerald. en_US Kupferberg, Eric David en_US
dc.contributor.other Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society. en_US 2005-08-23T22:10:42Z 2005-08-23T22:10:42Z 2001 en_US
dc.description Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Program in Science, Technology and Society, 2001. en_US
dc.description "February 2001." en_US
dc.description Includes bibliographical references (v. 2, p. 631-784). en_US
dc.description.abstract This thesis traces the development of American bacteriology during the first quarter of the twentieth century. While bacteriology experienced a period of rapid growth, an enduring disciplinary anxiety equally characterized the field. In particular, bacteriologists feared increasing specialization and conceptual fragmentation. Leading practitioners repeatedly worried that their science constituted a collection of unrelated techniques, carried out in the service to other practical endeavors without the benefit of an underlying theory or unifying language. I suggest that the sources of bacteriology's rapid professional growth equally accounted for this sense of conceptual impoverishment and disciplinary privation. Typically, bacteriologists focused on what bacteria did rather than what they were in any biological sense. The first three chapters provide a comprehensive survey of the institutional contexts bacteriology (e.g., medical schools, public health laboratories, water sanitation works, dairies, land-grant colleges, and agricultural experiment stations). For the most part, bacteriologists studied bacteria only so far as to isolate, identify and eliminate pathogens. Dairy and soil bacteriologists, however, sought to distinguish productive types of bacteria, and render those forms more active, a direction that led them to consider a range of phenomena and organisms normally occluded by the practices of medical, public health, and sanitary bacteriology. en_US
dc.description.abstract (cont.) The final three chapters of the dissertation trace the attempts of American bacteriologists to render their science less fragmented and more biological, focusing in particular on the actions of the Society of American Bacteriologists (SAB). Established in 1899, the SAB endeavored to bridge the divergent interests and practices of American bacteriologists. Through its inclusive membership, ecumenical leadership, diverse meeting programs, and society journal, the SAB served as an organizational exploration of those shared aspects of the discipline. Furthermore, the SAB issued a comprehensive chart for the identification of unknown cultures. While never endorsed as its official methods, the chart soon formed the basis of undergraduate and graduate training, while it guided research programs and published papers. In addition, the serial revisions of the chart led bacteriologists to consider many fundamental aspects of bacteria. Lastly, the SAB struggled to reform bacterial systematics. At the time of the SAB's founding, bacteriology languished under a state of taxonomic chaos, with each specialty offering its own system of naming and grouping bacteria. Believing that this linguistic fragmentation precluded the emergence of a unified discipline, the SAB overhauled bacterial systematics, arranging bacteria according to their detailed morphology, physiology, and likely evolutionary histories. en_US
dc.description.abstract (cont.) While the SAB's taxonomy did not find immediate adherents, it did become authoritative by way of the classroom and laboratory. The SAB issued a new comprehensive determinative guide, the Bergey's Manual of Determinative Bacteriology, which incorporated the SAB's scheme. As the Bergey's Manual became ubiquitous to laboratory practice and course instruction, American bacteriologists unwittingly adopted a broader range of considerations ... en_US
dc.description.statementofresponsibility by Eric D. Kupferberg. en_US
dc.format.extent 2 v. (784 p.) en_US
dc.format.extent 79200340 bytes
dc.format.extent 79200096 bytes
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.language.iso eng en_US
dc.publisher Massachusetts Institute of Technology en_US
dc.rights M.I.T. theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission. See provided URL for inquiries about permission. en_US
dc.subject Program in Science, Technology and Society. en_US
dc.title The expertise of germs : practice, language and authority in American bacteriology, 1899-1924 en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US Ph.D. en_US
dc.contributor.department Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society. en_US
dc.identifier.oclc 49650446 en_US

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