Article quick-view
Agents of Exchange >> Pin 2 of 8

How lives became lists and scientific papers became data: cataloguing authorship during the nineteenth century.


The Catalogue of Scientific Papers, published by the Royal Society of London beginning in 1867, projected back to the beginning of the nineteenth century a novel vision of the history of science in which knowledge was built up out of discrete papers each connected to an author. Its construction was an act of canon formation that helped naturalize the idea that scientific publishing consisted of special kinds of texts and authors that were set apart from the wider landscape of publishing. By recovering the decisions and struggles through which the Catalogue was assembled, this essay aims to contribute to current efforts to denaturalize the scientific paper as the dominant genre of scientific life. By privileging a specific representation of the course of a scientific life as a list of papers, the Catalogue helped shape underlying assumptions about the most valuable fruits of a scientific career. Its enumerated lists of authors' periodical publications were quickly put to use as a means of measuring scientific productivity and reputation, as well as by writers of biography and history. Although it was first conceived as a search technology, this essay locates the Catalogue's most consequential legacy in its uses as a technology of valuation.