Virtual Laboratory

The online project Virtual Laboratory. Essays and Resources on the Experimentalization of Life, 1830-1930 at the Max Planck Institute for History of Science deals with the history of Experimentalization of life. Under Experimentalization is meant by the dispositif of the Experimental of about 1830-1930 here the interaction between life sciences, arts, architecture, media and technology. The Virtual Laboratory is a platform that presents historical work on the subject, but also works as a working environment for the implementation of new studies.


In 1997, the first version of the Virtual Laboratory was presented under the name Virtual Laboratory of Physiology. At this time, the idea was in the foreground, representing the development of the technical conditions of physiological research in the 19th century. For this purpose, a database of texts and images has already been created on the subject. After several renovations in 1998 was the basic concept of the Virtual Laboratory used today, which was now no longer aligned alone on the physiology, but to the life sciences, art and literature. A year later, in 1999, the Virtual Laboratory is published in the form of a CD -ROM. Here you will find next to the source material, an electronic platform for historiographical work the first time. The project will be presented at the conference Using the World Wide Web for Historical Research in Science and Technology of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at Stanford University. In 2000, the Virtual Laboratory part funded by the Volkswagen Foundation research project The Experimentalization of Life. In addition, find another presentation at the conference Virtual Research? The impact of new technologies on scientific practices at the ETH Zurich. After the Virtual Laboratory 2001 Virtual Laboratory. Essays and Resources on the Experimentalization of Life, 1830-1930 has received its final title, goes online in 2002, the first version. Since 2008, the Virtual Laboratory has the status of a journal with the ISSN number ( 1866-4784 ).


The Virtual Laboratory is divided into two parts. The archive includes a large number of digitized texts and images on the subject and data sheets that were created from that stock. The laboratory consists of historiographical texts for Experimentalization of life and from a working environment that is to open up new ways to write history. The website of the Virtual Laboratory is divided into 8 sections:

  • Essays: here you can find the historiographical essays that are in turn linked to the source of the archive.
  • Experiment: this section contains data sheets for classic experiments in the life sciences of the 19th century, with which, for example Circulation, muscle contraction, nerve transmission and reaction time were studied.
  • Technology: here we find the technological part of the Experimentalization, so the instruments
  • Objects: this area is devoted to the objects of the experiments, ie living beings, especially Animals.
  • Sites: this section focuses on the places of Experimentalization, so institutions worked experimentally where.
  • People: here find brief biographies of the protagonists of Experimentalization
  • Concepts: This section is devoted to concepts such as reflex function and consciousness and its history.
  • Library: The Library section is the heart of the Virtual Laboratories. Here can be found next to digitized books, magazines and catalogs instrument also manuscripts, audio files and clips of films. The texts of the holdings of the Library are currently being processed with OCR software, and in part already searchable by full text search.

All materials can be downloaded as pdf files.

In addition to these thematic categories, tools and MyLab offer the possibilities to use the Virtual Laboratory as a working platform From. Own collections from the holdings of the Virtual Laboratory can be created, edited and shared with other users.