Document Detail

More fibre: the negotiation of microscopic facts in Victorian Britain.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  12778898     Owner:  HMD     Status:  MEDLINE    
During the 1840 and 1850s the British embryologist and histologist Martin Barry (1802-1855) propounded a bold and original thesis about the microscopic structure of animal and vegetable tissue. He maintained that minute double spirals were virtually ubiquitous in the makeup of a wide range of structures. This paper considers how a claim of this kind was consonant with a romantic image of scientific creativity with which Barry identified. It describes his partially successful strategies to convince contemporaries of the veracity of his claims. Major figures in the field, such as Richard Owen and Jan Evangelista Purkynĕ, affirmed that Barry's spirals were real objects in nature. Others, notably William Sharpey, became convinced that the spirals were mere artifacts and that Barry was deeply flawed as a scientific investigator. The ultimate rejection of his hypothesis had much to do with the moral repugnance that Barry's attempts to gain credit for a major discovery evoked among influential medical scientists. This negative assessment of Barry as an investigator reveals the lineaments of an alternative ethic of scientific practice.
L S Jacyne
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Biography; Historical Article; Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Journal of the history of biology     Volume:  36     ISSN:  0022-5010     ISO Abbreviation:  J Hist Biol     Publication Date:  2003  
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2003-06-02     Completed Date:  2003-06-06     Revised Date:  2009-11-19    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  0202503     Medline TA:  J Hist Biol     Country:  Netherlands    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  39-85     Citation Subset:  Q    
Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London, UK.
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MeSH Terms
Cell Biology / history*
Great Britain
History, 19th Century
Microscopy / history*
Philosophy, Medical / history*
Personal Name Subject
Personal Name Subject:
Martin Barry; William Sharpey

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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