5th Biennial Conference of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice (SPSP) Aarhus 2015

Plenary talk
Friday, 26 June 2015, 11:20–12:30 in Aud F
On Materiality and Scientific Objects
Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)
Session chair: Sabina Leonelli (University of Exeter)


At the beginning, I will explain my interest in the curious existence of epistemic things as hybrids of materiality and conceptuality. Then, I propose an outline for a typology of the different forms that scientific objects can take in the life sciences. First, I discuss preparations, a form of scientific objects that accompanied the development of modern biology in different guises from the seventeenth century to the present: as anatomical-morphological specimens, as microscopic cuts, and as biochemical preparations. Second, I discuss the characteristics of models in biology. A few remarks on the role of simulations – characterizing the life sciences at the turn from the twentieth to the twenty-first century – will conclude my reflections.