Scientists’ Methods Accounts: S. Weir Mitchell’s Research on the Venom of Poisonous Snakes

  • Jutta Schickore
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 263)


In this essay I pursue two related goals. I draw attention to a key yet neglected element of scientific writing about experiments: methods accounts. By “methods accounts” I mean scientists’ accounts of the rules one should apply in experimental practice, the problems one may encounter in doing so, and the extent to which the investigators believed they had followed these rules. I then utilize the study of methods accounts to consider if and how historical and philosophical analyses might be brought together to elucidate past scientific episodes. At first glance, scientists’ conceptions of good experimental methods and their development seem to be an important focal point for joint philosophical and historical analysis and thus a theme that fits squarely into the overall scope of the volume. I contend, however, that the question of how two scholarly fields, the history and the philosophy of science, should be combined, is ill conceived because it is based on a misconception of the practice of philosophical analysis.


Snake Venom Method Account Independent Confirmation Early Modern Period Methodological Reflection 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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