The Scientist, the Guinea Pig, and the Antivivisectionist

By Fabien Carrié

The nineteenth century was a period that featured a great development of experimental rationalism in the biological sciences. This rationalism was based on research methods that involved living animals—that is, vivisections. The knowledge, concepts, and practices that these sciences comprise nevertheless did not obtain the instantaneous recognition that a teleological reading of the phenomenon would tend to assume. Modes of diffusion and acceptance varied considerably from one country to another, with contrasts and discrepancies being particularly apparent between France—which, along with Germany, was at the time one of the centers from which these fields of knowledge were developed—and England, where the importation of experimental physiology helped the development of antivivisectionism, a social movement and an ideology that was hostile towards these new sciences, in the second half of the century. Using a synthetic approach that articulates the analysis of different levels of integration, this article proposes to explain the different processes found in France and England for universalizing the principles of these sciences.

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