The experiment has long been seen as a test bed for theory, but in Split and Splice, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger makes the case, instead, for treating experimentation as a creative practice. His latest book provides an innovative look at the experimental protocols and connections that have made the life sciences so productive.
Delving into the materiality of the experiment, the first part of the book assesses traces, models, grafting, and note-taking—the conditions that give experiments structure and make discovery possible. The second section widens its focus from micro-level laboratory processes to the temporal, spatial, and narrative links between experimental systems. Rheinberger narrates with accessible examples, most of which are drawn from molecular biology, including from the author’s laboratory notebooks from his years researching ribosomes.
A critical hit when it was released in Germany, Split and Splice describes a method that involves irregular results and hit-or-miss connections—not analysis, not synthesis, but the splitting and splicing that form a scientific experiment. Building on Rheinberger’s earlier writing about science and epistemology, this book is a major achievement by one of today’s most influential theorists of scientific practice.