“Do Not Kill Guinea Pig before Setting up Apparatus”: The Kymograph's Lost Educational Context

Alistair Marcus Kwan

DOI: https://doi.org/10.46938/tv.2016.345


The objects of science education are transformed, degraded and disappeared for many reasons, and sometimes take other things with them when they go. This close reading of an undergraduate physiology laboratory report demonstrates how the kymograph was never a stand-alone instrument, but intertwined with conceptual frameworks and technical skills, laboratory amenities, materials, animal supply, technicians. Replacing the obsolete kymograph entails changing all of that, though our usual stories are focussed on progress associated with better measurements with fewer complications, not complications themselves. Such interconnectedness between progress and demise raises uncomfortable challenges for laboratory pedagogy, and for museum practice: what is laboratory education really about, and what kinds of heritage should museums, libraries and archives preserve to document it?


kymograph; history of education; teaching laboratories; laboratory pedagogy; obsolescence; historical scientific instruments

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TEORIE VĚDY / THEORY OF SCIENCE – journal for interdisciplinary studies of science is published twice a year by the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Centre for Science, Technology, and Society Studies). ISSN 1210-0250 (Print) ISSN 1804-6347 (Online) MK ČR E 18677 web: http://teorievedy.flu.cas.cz /// email: teorievedy@flu.cas.cz