Keiner Abstract


Social and Scientific Organization in the Psychobiological Laboratory, 1935-1978

Christine Keiner
2 May 1996

Curt P. Richter (1894-1988) is a highly respected individual in the field of psychobiology. In the course of some sixty years as director of the Psychobiological Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, he published over 250 papers covering a wide variety of topics, including fundamental work in the areas of biological clocks and behavioral homeostasis. I argue that despite his image as an isolated investigator advancing the bounds of psychobiological inquiry seemingly single-handedly, an image propounded by both his admirers and by Richter himself, Richter was dependent on many collaborators, medical students, technicians, and maids to maintain his impressive level of productivity. I relate the laboratory's changing social organization to its scientific output over the course of half a century, with special attention to the lab's technicians, the majority of whom were women. In light of the changes which occured over several decades regarding the role of the technicians, I conclude by analyzing the internal contradictions of Richter's defense of "freedom of research" in response to post-war changes in scientific funding.

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