Pump and Circumstance: Robert Boyle's Literary Technology

  title={Pump and Circumstance: Robert Boyle's Literary Technology},
  author={S. Shapin},
  journal={Social Studies of Science},
  pages={481 - 520}
  • S. Shapin
  • Published 1971
  • Sociology, Medicine
  • Social Studies of Science
Robert Boyle's experimental programme had as its end-product the generation of indisputable matters of fact. In this paper I analyze the resources used to produce these matters of fact, paying particular attention to linguistic practices. Experimental reports rich in circumstantial detail were designed to enable readers of the text to create a mental image of an experimental scene they did not directly witness. I call this `virtual witnessing', and its importance was as a means of enlarging the… Expand

Topics from this paper


Some Nonexistent Chemists of the Seventeenth Century: Remarks on the Use of the Dialogue in Scientific Writing
  • 1966
cit. note 10, 305-06; cf. Boyle, 'New Experiments', op. cit. note 1, 1: R.S. Westfall, 'Unpublished Boyle Papers relating to Scientific Method
  • Annals of Science,
  • 1956
Science and Language in England of the Mid-Seventeenth Century
  • Journal of English and Germanic Philology
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Cambridge University Press, 1958), 40-41; Boyle, 'New Experiments', op
  • cit. note 1, 2; Boyle, 'The Experimental History of Colours', in RBW, Vol. I, Shapin: Pump and Circumstance 515 662-778, at 633
  • 1663
227-46; and the sources cited in notes 28 and 29. For Boyle's attack on the 'confused', 'equivocal' and 'cloudy' language of the alchemists, see 'Sceptical Chymist
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