Virtual Laboratory
The online project Virtual Laboratory. Essays and Resources on the Experimentalization of Life, 1830-1930, located at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin was established in March 1994. Its research is primarily devoted to a theoretically oriented history of science, principally of the natural sciences, but with methodological perspectives drawn from the cognitive sciences and from...

, is dedicated to research in the history of the experimentalization of life. The term experimentalization describes the interaction between the life sciences
Life sciences
The life sciences comprise the fields of science that involve the scientific study of living organisms, like plants, animals, and human beings. While biology remains the centerpiece of the life sciences, technological advances in molecular biology and biotechnology have led to a burgeoning of...

, the arts
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

, architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

, media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 and technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

 within the experimental paradigm, ca. 1830 to 1930. The Virtual Laboratory is a platform that not only presents work on this topic but also acts as a research environment for new studies.


In 1997, the first version of the Virtual Laboratory was presented, titled Virtual Laboratory of Physiology. At this time, the main focus lay on the development of technological preconditions of physiological research in the 19th century. Therefore, a database with relevant texts and images was created. In 1998, the concept still used today was created after a series of modifications, followed by the publication of a cd-ROM in 1999. At this time, the focus had been expanded from physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

 to the life sciences
Life sciences
The life sciences comprise the fields of science that involve the scientific study of living organisms, like plants, animals, and human beings. While biology remains the centerpiece of the life sciences, technological advances in molecular biology and biotechnology have led to a burgeoning of...

 in general, as well as the arts and literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

. As the project had been extended from a sole database to a platform for historiographical research, it was presented at the conference Using the World Wide Web for Historical Research in Science and Technology organized by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic non-profit organization in the United States. It was established in 1934 by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., then-President and Chief Executive Officer of General Motors.-Overview:...

 at Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

. In 2000, the project was incorporated into the research project The Experimentalization of Life, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. This was followed by another presentation at the conference Virtual Research? The impact of new technologies on scientific practices at the ETH Zurich
ETH Zurich
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich or ETH Zürich is an engineering, science, technology, mathematics and management university in the City of Zurich, Switzerland....

. In 2002, the first version of the Virtual Laboratory went online. Since 2008, the Virtual Laboratory is listed as a journal under the ISSN number 1866-4784.


The Virtual Laboratory consists of two parts: The archive holds a large number of digitized texts and images as well as data sheets compiled from these resources, the laboratory holds historiographical work on the experimentalization of life as well as a working environment to enable new ways of writing history.
The Virtual Laboratory is composed of 8 sections:
  • Essays: this section holds the historiographical papers that are in turn linked to the source material of the archive.
  • Experiments: contains data sheets on classical experiments from 19th century life sciences, e.g. on blood circulation, muscle contraction, verve conduction and reaction time.
  • Technology: deals with the technological aspects of experimentalization, hence the instruments.
  • Objects: this section is still under construction. It will contain the actual objects of the experiments, hence organisms.
  • Sites: contains data sheets on institutions at which experimental work was conducted.
  • People: this sections holds short biographies of the protagonists of experimentalization.
  • Concepts: is dedicated to central concepts like reflex, function and consciousness and their respective histories.
  • Library: this is the core section of the Virtual Laboratory. Besides digitized texts, journals and trade catalogues, it holds manuscripts, audio files and excerpts of movies. The printed texts are in the process of being ocr-ed and are already partly accessible via fulltext search.

All materials are available as pdf downloads.

Apart from these thematical sections, tools and myLab offer the possibility to use the Virtual Laboratory as a research environment. It is possible to create specific collections from the available materials, work on them and share them with other users.


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.