Article ID: CBB000831745

Enacting Cultural Boundaries in French and German Diphtheria Serum Research (2008)


The experimental development of a therapeutic serum against diphtheria between 1891 and 1894 was characterized by a scientific competition that pitted Emil Behring from the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin against Émile Roux and Elie Metschnikoff from the Pasteur Institute in Paris. In general, their competition can be regarded as an extension of the fundamental differences that separated the research schools of Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur. However, to characterize the competition for a diphtheria-serum as national rivalry fails to account adequately for the mutual adoption of experimental practices by the Berlin and Parisian protagonists, whose contributions to the development of a therapeutic serum were intertwined in complex ways. Nor can it be characterized as cooperation, given their fierce public disputes over scientific concepts and the fact that these disputes also shaped the peculiarities of the experimental procedures in Berlin and Paris. A close analysis reveals a complex picture of the dynamic interaction between the conceptual and experimental activities of Behring, Roux, and Metschnikoff -- interaction that defined as well as bridged the French and Prussian experimental systems of diphtheria-serum research.

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Authors & Contributors
Simon, Jonathan
Fleck, Christian
Gachelin, Gabriel
Gaudillière, Jean-Paul
Gausemeier, Bernd
Gradmann, Christoph
Dynamis: Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam
Science in Context
Health and History
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
History of Psychiatry
Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Bloomsbury Academic
Cross-national interaction
Vaccines; vaccination
Medicine and culture
Public health
Behring, Emil von
Pasteur, Louis
Roux, Émile
Koch, Robert
Fassin, Didier
Foucault, Michel
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
21st century
Great Britain
Paris (France)
Institut Pasteur, Paris
Institut für Infektionskrankheiten, Berlin
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Biochemie, Berlin-Dahlem

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