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Epub ISBN: 9781616149345

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The early development of the domain of electricity displays some of these features. Prior to Gilbert the electrical domain, if one may so stretch the term, consisted in the electrostatic properties of amber, effects grasped in ordinary language as well as at the margins of natural philosophical discourses of natural magic and curiosities. Having to hand only the amber effect along with his own lengthened list of similarly 'electric' substances, Gilbert (1600) inscribed the electrical domain within natural philosophy primarily as the 'non-magnetic'.

The coneption and construction of the jar hardware was, of course, dependent upon ordinary language understandings of terms like 'jar', 'pin', and 'water', terms which might acquire extra technical 'spins' as they were associated with the design, use and agreed 'output' of the newly stabilized artifact. More important from our standpoint, in order to build a jar in the first place, some stability and consensus had to exist about terms like 'electrical effluvia' or 'fluid'; about 'electrics' and 'non-electrics'; and about properties of the flow of fluid or effluvia and the sparking, seepage and possible containment of the same.

Technical details of hardware and outputs may have been relatively less interesting in themselves than the drive to enrol the hardware and its newly insinuated discourse for systematic purposes: to display the correct natural philosophical system, method, concepts or values. For example, the politics of inter-system debate fuelled the early controversies about the meaning, nature and function of the barometer and the air pump, with each side viewing its own discourse of the hardware as manifestation of, or evidential support for, their preferred natural philosophical objects and relations (Middleton, 1964; Shapin & Schaffer, 1985).

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