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EGENIS seminar: "Give me a phenomenon to observe, and an intervention precise enough, and I can find the mechanism", Caterina Schürch (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)

Egenis seminar series

In 1928, chemist Fritz Laquer framed the Archimedes-postulate of hormone research: „Give me a test object! — and one can hopefully begin the chemical processing of a hormone.“ This talk looks at the study of plant growth hormones and other cases from the 1920s and 1930s in which researchers attempted to elucidate the chemical processes taking place in living organisms. Taking Laquer’s metaphor one step further, I argue: In order to elucidate biochemical processes, researchers not only needed precise intervention techniques (levers), but also regular biological phenomena (places to stand on). The analysis highlights the essential role of research organisms and their behaviour in the experimental life sciences. Moreover, we better understand why the chemists and biologists cooperated as equals: Both disciplinary groups had resources and skills that the other needed to achieve their epistemic goals.

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