Trafficking Materials and Gendered Experimental Practices: Radium Research in Early 20th Century Vienna

Book cover
TitleTrafficking Materials and Gendered Experimental Practices: Radium Research in Early 20th Century Vienna
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsRetentzi, M
Number of Pages316
PublisherColumbia University Press
CityNew York
Publication LanguageEnglish

The book is about the materials and experimental practices of radioactivity research in early 20th century. It is centered on radioactive materials, instruments, women’s work in physics, and gendered skills. The book shows how experimental cultures—ensembles of scientific practices employed by gendered subjects who share a certain material and epistemic style of research—in radioactivity are constructed and reshaped by scientists of different gender as well as by politics. At the same time, it explores the different ways experimental practices affect men and women in laboratory sciences. In this book the notion of material culture is broaden to include not only instruments and objects but materials that were both commodities and objects of scientific inquiry. Throughout the book certain questions have been addressed: how purified radium ended up on laboratory benches; who had done the hands on work of its extraction and isolation from tons of residues; who had designed experiments and instruments for probing radium’s properties; who were those who carried radium outside of the physics laboratory to the clinic and medical amphitheatres; how the architecture of the laboratory affected men’s and women’s scientific work and how its urban sitting reflected assumptions about scientific cross-disciplinary collaborations. Following the circulation of radium, the making of connections, and the pursuit of power through
strategies of partnership and collaboration the book redraws paths of scientific exchanges and transfers the reader from scientific laboratories to hospitals and from academic to industrial sites. It connects different disciplines such as
physics to medicine and chemistry; it reflects and constitutes struggles for scientific pre-eminence and diverse partnerships between scientists and industrialists; it even stands for efforts for professional existence.
The book has received the following awards:
2004 Honorific mention from the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science, Division of History of Science (IUHPS/DHS),
2003 Outstanding Dissertation Award in Social Sciences, Virginia Tech. The prize carries
a stipend of $1000,
2003 Gutenberg e-Prize, American Historical Association (AHA).