Experimental platforms and technologies of visualisation: Cancer as viral epidemic, 1930-1960

Angela N.H. Creager, Jean Paul Gaudillière

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

11 Scopus citations


Etiology is usually understood as the medical search for the cause of disease, which eventually attains a scientific status by conforming to theoretical rules, such as Koch’s postulates in microbiology or Hill’s postulates in statistical epidemiology. Medical researchers tend to view the endless debates about the contribution of genetic, biochemical, physiological, immunological, bacteriological, psychological, and social causes involved in most human diseases as a ‘theory-practice’ problem: the theoretical ideals summarized by these postulates are difficult to translate into practice because the bodily experience of disease is so complex. Recent social and cultural studies of medical knowledge suggest that it may be useful to turn this approach upside down and to look at etiological debates in terms of situated practices which consist of peculiar sets of laboratory, clinical, and statistical operations. Rather than seeing the discovery of tumor viruses as an attempt to test postulates, this paper takes theories of cancer causation as reified forms of the manipulation of new pieces of equipment and new inscriptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHeredity and Infection
Subtitle of host publicationThe History of Disease Transmission
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages39
ISBN (Electronic)9781135138530
ISBN (Print)0415271207, 9781138181410
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Medicine


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