Technology and skill: dividing engines in the Nineteenth Century - NMS Research Repository
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Journal article

Technology and skill: dividing engines in the Nineteenth Century



Recent studies in the making of scientific knowledge have demonstrated that science and technology are mutually dependant on each other. One example here is the manufacture of scientific instruments. Both instrument makers’ tools and practices are essential for shaping the functioning of an instrument and thereby shaping later instrument users’ practice. In this article I examine two circular dividing engines recently acquired by National Museums Scotland which represent a specific style of practice and will contrast them with two engines from the same period kept at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. By doing so I will demonstrate how different manufacturing techniques determine what can be done with a scientific instrument and what cannot. Moreover, I will demonstrate that different designs of dividing engines determine if an instrument can be considered scientific or not. My emphasis on skills and practice can serve as a useful means for both understanding different concepts of science and technology and how they should be presented in museums.


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