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Beware the Lab Cannibals!

The same anti-historical stance applies to instrumentation. It's true enough that a new form of gas chromatograph or monochromator is assembled not for its novelty value but to get results. But if the results turn out to have special significance, then the instru ment with which they were obtained gains special status too. Clearly, not every production line galvanometer used by a Nobel laureate merits hallowed status, but when a custom -made instrument delivers important new insights it deserv

Jon Darius

The same anti-historical stance applies to instrumentation. It's true enough that a new form of gas chromatograph or monochromator is assembled not for its novelty value but to get results. But if the results turn out to have special significance, then the instru ment with which they were obtained gains special status too. Clearly, not every production line galvanometer used by a Nobel laureate merits hallowed status, but when a custom -made instrument delivers important new insights it deserves to be preserved.

Typically though, the approach is not preservation but cannibalism. Laboratory funding is rarely lavish. Often one apparatus is plundered for the sake of a few compo nents with which to build the next. Sometimes, of course, this practice is equivalent to saving the buttons from a worn-out jacket. But there are occasions when the ap paratus as a small piece of scientific history is worth far more than...

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