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Trafficking Materials and Gendered Experimental Practices

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Maria Rentetzi surveys the experimental practices of radioactivity research in early-twentieth-century Vienna, focusing on radioactive materials, instruments, women's work in physics, and gendered skills. She shows how experimental cultures in radioactivity-scientific practices employed by gendered subjects who shared a certain material and epistemic style of research& mdash;were constructed and reshaped by socialist politics in Vienna at that time. She also explores the different ways experimental practices affected men and women in laboratory sciences.Rentetzi expands the notion of material culture to include not only instruments and objects but also materials that operated as both commodities and objects of scientific inquiry. She tells a multifaceted story of how purified radium ended up on laboratory benches and who extracted and isolated it from tons of residues; the individuals who designed experiments and instruments for probing radium's properties; and those who carried radium outside of the physics laboratory and into the clinic and medical amphitheatres. Rentetzi examines how the architecture of the laboratory affected men's and women's scientific work and the way in which its urban setting reflected assumptions about scientific cross-disciplinary collaborations.Following the circulation of radium and the pursuit of power through strategies of partnership and collaboration, Rentetzi redraws paths of scientific exchange and transfers the reader from scientific laboratories to hospitals and from academic to industrial sites.
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About the Author

Maria Rentetzi is an assistant professor at the National Technical University of Athens in Greece. She teaches science and technology studies, and her articles have appeared in journals such as Isis, the British Journal for History of Science, Endeavour, and Nuncius. Her forthcoming book deals with the physical sciences and the laboratory.


[A] valuable and fascinating book. -- Dr. Ivelin Kuleff Chemistry A provocative and pathbreaking interdisciplinary work. -- Marsha L. Richmond Journal of the History of Biology A splendid achievement, accessible and innovative in form and content. Highly recommended. -- Jeff Hughes Physics in Perspective the rich picture of the working life of a significant scientific center presented here remains a significant achievement. -- Richard H. Beyler H-German Rentetzi provides a unique look at a chapter of radium research and particle and nuclear physics that deserves to be better known. -- Joel O. Lubenau Journal of Health Physics A valuable contribution to the radium story and to women scientists of the early 20th century -- Dr. Richard F. Mould NOWOTWORY: Journal of Oncology ...this monograph is a welcome addition to gender studies and the history of early twentieth-century physical sciences. -- A.A. Fisher Austrian Studies Newsletter With this book Rentezi has provided an important and insightful contribution to the study of twentieth century experimental practices, the history of radioactivity, and women in science. -- Annette Lykknes Centaurus In conclusion, this book is a valuable contribution to the radium story and to women scientists of the early 20th century... -- Dr. Richard F. Mould Nowotwory The result of this ambitious project is a book that makes an important contribution to the history of radioactivity. Spontaneous Generations an equally innovative, stimulating, and carefully researched study that brings together urban transformation, politics, gender studies, a study of disciplinary material culture, and a history of a scientific discipline. -- Tatjana Buklijas H-Habsburg Fundamentally, this work is a valuable contribution to the history of radioactivity and should be of interest to historians of science and gender historians alike. -- Laura Kelly Gender and History

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