Drawing upon Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer's book on Robert Boyle and modern conceptions of scientific objectivity, Donna Haraway argues that Boyle's invention of the literary technology (or style) of the trustworthy, objective, modest witness of scientific experiment necessarily excluded women.

The issue was not whether women were intelligent or not. Boyle, for example, regarded his aristocratic sisters as his equal in intellectually demanding religious discussions. The issue was whether women had the independent status to be modest witnesses, and they did not. Technicians, who were physically present, were also epistemologically invisible persons in the experimental way of life; women were invisible in both physical and epistemological senses. [27]

How did this construction of the natural scientist as non-female affect Victorian attitudes towards gender roles, education, and legal responsibility?


Haraway, Donna J. Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium. FemaleMan_Meets_OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience. New York and London: Routledge, 1997.

Shapin, Steven and Simon Schaffer. Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and The Experimental Life. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1985.

Created 2000

Last modified 26 March 2023