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The scientific home in transit: Circulating a gendered family life in early twentieth-century physics and chemistry
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of History of Science and Ideas.
2013 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The argument of this paper is that laboratory-based physics and chemistry in the early twentieth century was deeply connected to the circulation of a particular form of gendered family life. The paper will present how domestic sites facilitated the intermingling of scientific and family life in the international community of scholars. The empirical example is the Swedish physical chemist Svante Arrhenius and his wife Maja Johansson. They married in 1905 and subsequently created a scientific household at the Nobel Institute for Physical Chemistry in Stockholm. Repeatedly, they visited similar scientific sites abroad and the paper aims to display how scholars transferred a culturally intelligible way of family life. Frequent travelling migrated a gendered lifestyle throughout the international community. Everywhere, husbands and wives were expected to perform distinct duties and repeatedly, scholars discussed the fate of their children.

The paper argues that the circulation of a gendered way of life was not external to knowledge making, but foundational to laboratory practices. A legitimate and culturally intelligible lifestyle produced trust, support and kinship needed for collaboration. So far, this dimension of knowledge in transit has not been addressed in the history of science, albeit processes of migration have been a repeated topic of concern in the field. Finally, the paper also suggests some major shifts in science and family life as Sweden was modernized in the 20th century. These transformations will be indicated by a short description of the fate of the children to the Arrhenius couple. 

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History of Sciences and Ideas
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-212077OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-212077DiVA: diva2:676018
24th International Congress for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Manchester
Available from: 2013-12-05 Created: 2013-12-05 Last updated: 2013-12-05

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