Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 414477
Title The Collective Construction of a Scientific Fact: a Re-examination of the Early Period of the Wassermann Reaction (1906-1912)
Author(s) Belt, H. van den
Source Social Epistemology 25 (2011)4. - ISSN 0269-1728 - p. 311 - 339.
Department(s) Applied Philosophy Group
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2011
Abstract Ludwik Fleck is widely recognized as a precursor of Science and Technology Studies, but his case study on the development of the Wassermann reaction as a test for detecting syphilis has never been subjected to detailed empirical scrutiny. The fact that Fleck?s monograph is based on a limited set of documentary sources makes his work vulnerable to uncharitable critics. The problematic relation between thought collective and individual scientists in Fleck?s theoretical approach is another reason for a systematic re-examination of his case study, using materials on the early period in the history of the Wassermann reaction (1906?1912). My re-examination highlights several problems in Fleck?s account: a misinterpretation of the switch from antigen detection to antibody detection; a neglect of the ?clinical connection?; an overemphasis on the importance of collective experience leading to implausible views on gross retrospective distortions supposedly inflicted by this experience upon the memories of individual participants; and, finally, a misjudgement of the significance of the acrimonious dispute over the intellectual ownership of the Wassermann reaction. What remains unscathed is Fleck?s picture of a zig-zag course of development from false initial assumptions via detours and cul-de-sacs to a clinically usable test in the end.
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