Although historical scientific instruments were included in early modern cabinets of curiosities or 19th century museums, their scholarly value was more fully recognized during the 20th century. The study of scientific instruments offers fundamental insights into the creation and transmission of knowledge and – alongside complementary approaches to the history of science, technology, education, commerce, society, and culture – enriches our understanding of scientific method and practice.
Scientific instrument studies treat instruments as material culture and place them within the context of larger themes in the history and philosophy of science. Topics may include not only the role of instruments in research, teaching, and manufacturing, but also the depiction of instruments in art, the performance of experiments as public spectacles, and the influence of politics and national competitions in their development and use.
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