Article ID: CBB502099356

Fleck the Public Health Expert: Medical Facts, Thought Collectives, and the Scientist’s Responsibility (May 2016)


Ludwik Fleck is known mainly for his pioneering studies of science as a social activity. This text investigates a different aspect of Fleck’s epistemological thought—his engagement with normative aspects of medicine and public health and their political underpinnings. In his sinuous professional trajectory, Fleck navigated between two distinct thought styles: fundamental microbiological research and practice-oriented investigations of infectious diseases. Fleck’s awareness of tensions between these two approaches favored the genesis of his theoretical reflections. At the same time, his close observation of medical and epidemiological practices led him to the conclusion that collectively produced scientific facts are situated and fragile. Thought collectives, Fleck explained, can err or yield to external pressures, with potentially disastrous consequences. While Fleck the reflexive experimental scientist has been creatively translated into the science studies idiom, Fleck the reflexive practical microbiologist and public health expert still awaits inspired translation.

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Authors & Contributors
Davies, Sarah R.
Bonah, Christian
Löwy, Illana
Hedfors, Eva
Sampsa Saikkonen
Väliverronen, Esa
Social Studies of Science
Science, Technology and Human Values
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society
Social History of Medicine
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Oxford University Press
Springer International Publishing
Technoscience; science and technology studies
Human experimentation
Medicine and ethics
Career development
Fleck, Ludwik
Fujimura, Joan H.
Time Periods
21st century
20th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
19th century
Meiji period (Japan, 1868-1910)
Burkina Faso
Columbia River
United States

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