Strange Science: Investigating the Limits of Knowledge in the Victorian Age


In this volume, Strange Science, the editors Lara Karpenko and Shalyn Claggett emphasize the borders of investigation in their subtitle, Investigating the Limits of Knowledge in the Victorian Age. “Limits” here are subjects for fresh investigation rather than clamping containers. Beyond the current limits are thriving new territories, or delusive dream countries. This powerful collection gathers examples of both. But a number of the essays also make it clear that even work that fails or where the procedures are chaotic and the assumptions doubtful may eventually find some presence in later discoveries. Work that challenges dominant assumptions may provoke different kinds of insight from more orthodox workers over time.
Science is preoccupied with discovery and with justification. To that degree, all science seeks the strange. When found, the aim is to find a place for the discovery within the known system or, more radically and more rarely, to change the system. The struggle between novelty and affirmation of the known gives the zest to much scientific work. It demands cautious procedures and audacious guesses at the same time. Innovation and repetition are both essential. That much can be said of scientific work across fields and across time. But there are major differences between the practices of knowledge-seekers in the nineteenth century and the present day.
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