Engines of Discovery: Telescopes, Astronomers, and Changing Research Practices 1750-2001
The aim of the project is to develop a deepened understanding of the role played by instruments in the scientific enterprise. The starting point is a statement from historians of science Albert van Helden and Thomas Hankins where they claimed that “[b]ecause instruments determine what can be done, they also determine to some extent what can be thought”. Representing major investment, a main instrument tend to outlast several generations of researchers, carrying with them the design and values of yesteryear’s scientific ideas, sometimes becoming become a burden and obstacle. This is the dynamics the project will explore, using the instruments operated at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ observatories in Stockholm and Saltsjöbaden as our example.