1st Edition

The Aesthetics of Scientific Experiments

Edited By Milena Ivanova, Alice Murphy Copyright 2023
    244 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The relationship between aesthetics and science has begun to generate substantial interest. However, for the most part, the focus has been on the beauty of theories, and other aspects of scientific practice have been neglected. This book offers a novel perspective on aesthetics in experimentation via ten original essays from an interdisciplinary group comprised of philosophers, historians of science and art, and artists.

    The collection provides an analysis of the concept of beauty in the evaluation of experiments. What properties do practising experimenters value? How have the aesthetic properties of scientific experiments changed over the years? Secondly, the volume looks at the role that aesthetic factors, including negative values such as ugliness, as well as experiences of the sublime and the profound, play in the construction of an experiment and its reception. Thirdly, the chapters provide in-depth historical case studies from the Royal Society, which also allows for a study of the depiction of scientific experiment in artworks, as well as contemporary examples from the Large Hadron Collider and cases of experiments designed by artificial intelligence. Finally, it offers an exploration of the commonalities between how we learn from experiments on the one hand and the cognitive value of artworks on the other.

    The Aesthetics of Scientific Experiments will be of interest to researchers and advanced students working in philosophy and history of science, philosophy and history of art, as well as practising scientists and science communicators.

    Introduction Milena Ivanova and Alice Murphy

    1. The Aesthetic Value of Scientific Experiments Milena Ivanova

    2. Beautiful Experiments in Art and Science Claire Anscomb

    3. Robert Boyle (1627-1691) and the Aesthetics of Chemical Experimentation Alexander Wragge-Morley

    4. Science as Revelation: The Alchymist... by Joseph Wright of Derby Adrian Holme

    5. Towards a New Aesthetics of Science: Aesthetic Cultures and the Processes and Objects of Regard Adrian Currie

    6. Profound Experiments Alice Murphy

    7. Experimental Science as Epistemic Expansion: New Work for a Theory of the Sublime Glenn Parsons

    8. Aesthetic Cognitivism, Experimental Shielding, and Explanatory Reasoning James Nguyen

    9. Something from Nothing: ‘Non-discovery’ and Transformations in High Energy Experimental Physics at the Large Hadron Collider Sophie Ritson

    10. The Future Won’t be Pretty: The Nature and Value of Ugly, AI-Designed Experiments Michael T. Stuart


    Milena Ivanova is a Byefellow at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, specializing in the aesthetics of science. Her project investigates the aesthetic values of scientific experiments. She is the author of Duhem and Holism (Cambridge University Press) and co-editor of The Aesthetics of Science: Beauty, Imagination and Understanding (Routledge).

    Alice Murphy s a postdoctoral researcher at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU), Munich. Her research focuses on aesthetic values in science, the epistemic role of imagination, and scientific thought experiments and models.