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Lists as Research Technologies

Staffan Müller-Wille and Isabelle Charmantier
Vol. 103, No. 4 (December 2012), pp. 743-752
DOI: 10.1086/669048
Stable URL:
Page Count: 10
Subjects: History of Science & Technology
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Lists as Research Technologies
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ABSTRACTThe Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) is famous for having turned botany into a systematic discipline, through his classification systems—most notably the sexual system—and his nomenclature. Throughout his life, Linnaeus experimented with various paper technologies designed to display information synoptically. The list took pride of place among these and is also the common element of more complex representations he produced, such as genera descriptions and his “natural system.” Taking clues from the anthropology of writing, this essay seeks to demonstrate that lists can be considered as genuine research technologies. They possess a potential to generate research problems of their own but also pose limitations to inquiries that can be overcome only by the use of new media.