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Article: Measurement in French experimental physics from Regnault to Lippmann. Rhetoric and theoretical practice

TitleMeasurement in French experimental physics from Regnault to Lippmann. Rhetoric and theoretical practice
Authors
Issue Date2012
PublisherTaylor & Francis Ltd. The Journal's web site is located at http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/tf/00033790.html
Citation
Annals of Science, v. 69 n. 4, p. 453-482 How to Cite?
AbstractThis paper explores the legacy of the great French experimental physicist Victor Regnault through the example of Gabriel Lippmann, whose engagement with electrical standardization during the early 1880s was guided by Regnault's methodological precept to measure directly. Lippmann's education reveals that the theoretical practice of direct measurement entailed eliminating extraneous physical effects through the experimental design, rather than, like physicists in Britain and Germany, making numerical corrections to measured values. It also provides, paradoxically, exemplars of the qualitative theoretical practices that sustained Regnault's misguided ambition to avoid theory. By considering the largely negative reactions to Lippmann's proposals for selecting suitable electrical units and methods of measuring the ohm, this paper associates these theoretical practices with the ineffectual rhetorical strategies employed by Lippmann to promote his work, and thereby indicates that the practice of direct measurement was limited to French experimental physics. Whilst this result aligns readily with the existence of divergent nineteenth century British and German cultures of precision, it emerges from a very different disciplinary context in which the practice of precision electrical measurement developed independently of submarine telegraphy. This is because, as this paper illustrates, telegraphic engineering and experimental physics remained separate professions in France. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
DescriptionWinner of the Annals of Science Prize for 2011
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/210160
ISSN
2015 Impact Factor: 0.366
2015 SCImago Journal Rankings: 0.234

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorMitchell, DJ-
dc.date.accessioned2015-05-26T01:44:22Z-
dc.date.available2015-05-26T01:44:22Z-
dc.date.issued2012-
dc.identifier.citationAnnals of Science, v. 69 n. 4, p. 453-482-
dc.identifier.issn0003-3790-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/210160-
dc.descriptionWinner of the Annals of Science Prize for 2011-
dc.description.abstractThis paper explores the legacy of the great French experimental physicist Victor Regnault through the example of Gabriel Lippmann, whose engagement with electrical standardization during the early 1880s was guided by Regnault's methodological precept to measure directly. Lippmann's education reveals that the theoretical practice of direct measurement entailed eliminating extraneous physical effects through the experimental design, rather than, like physicists in Britain and Germany, making numerical corrections to measured values. It also provides, paradoxically, exemplars of the qualitative theoretical practices that sustained Regnault's misguided ambition to avoid theory. By considering the largely negative reactions to Lippmann's proposals for selecting suitable electrical units and methods of measuring the ohm, this paper associates these theoretical practices with the ineffectual rhetorical strategies employed by Lippmann to promote his work, and thereby indicates that the practice of direct measurement was limited to French experimental physics. Whilst this result aligns readily with the existence of divergent nineteenth century British and German cultures of precision, it emerges from a very different disciplinary context in which the practice of precision electrical measurement developed independently of submarine telegraphy. This is because, as this paper illustrates, telegraphic engineering and experimental physics remained separate professions in France. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherTaylor & Francis Ltd. The Journal's web site is located at http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/tf/00033790.html-
dc.relation.ispartofAnnals of Science-
dc.rightsPREPRINT This is a preprint of an article whose final and definitive form has been published in the [JOURNAL TITLE] [year of publication] [copyright Taylor & Francis]; [JOURNAL TITLE] is available online at: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/ with the open URL of your article POSTPRINT This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in [JOURNAL TITLE] on [date of publication], available online: http://wwww.tandfonline.com/[Article DOI]-
dc.titleMeasurement in French experimental physics from Regnault to Lippmann. Rhetoric and theoretical practice-
dc.typeArticle-
dc.identifier.emailMitchell, DJ: djmitch@hku.hk-
dc.identifier.doi10.1080/00033790.2012.730437-
dc.identifier.scopuseid_2-s2.0-84870291135-
dc.identifier.volume69-
dc.identifier.issue4-
dc.identifier.spage453-
dc.identifier.epage482-
dc.publisher.placeUnited Kingdom-

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