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« A masterful, groundbreaking work …. Strasser’s research is wide and deep, his prose lucidly informative, and his analysis subtle, discerning, and persuasive. »

Daniel J. Kevles, Yale University

« From bacteria to blood and protein to DNA, this engaging book restores collecting to the experimentalist tradition and gives ‘big data’ biology the history it needs. »

Nick Hopwood, University of Cambridge UK

« This is a fascinating read…
Highly recommended. »

Choice, 2020 Outstanding Academic Title


Collecting  Experiments
Making Big Data Biology
Bruno J. Strasser

The University of Chicago Press
392 pages | 35 halftones | 6 x 9 |
© 2019

Databases have revolutionized nearly every aspect of our lives. Information of all sorts is being collected on a massive scale, from Google to Facebook and well beyond. But as the amount of information in databases explodes, we are forced to reassess our ideas about what knowledge is, how it is produced, to whom it belongs, and who can be credited for producing it.

Every scientist working today draws on databases to produce scientific knowledge. Databases have become more common than microscopes, voltmeters, and test tubes, and the increasing amount of data has led to major changes in research practices and profound reflections on the proper professional roles of data producers, collectors, curators, and analysts.

Collecting Experiments traces the development and use of data collections, especially in the experimental life sciences, from the early twentieth century to the present. It shows that the current revolution is best understood as the coming together of two older ways of knowing—collecting and experimenting, the museum and the laboratory. Ultimately, Bruno J. Strasser argues that by serving as knowledge repositories, as well as indispensable tools for producing new knowledge, these databases function as digital museums for the twenty-first century.


About the author

Bruno J. Strasser is a historian exploring the shifting relations between science and society.

He is a full professor at the University of Geneva and adjunct professor at Yale University. He’s been a visiting fellow at Princeton University, the Max-Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, and the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, and a visiting professor at the University of Manchester and Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Bruno J. Strasser is currently working on a global history of the face mask. When he ‘s not writing, reading, or teaching, you can find him baking sourdough bread with his kids.