Kirsti Niskanen, Mineke Bosch, Kaat Wils


The concept of scientific persona was developed by historians of science at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin fifteen years ago in order to understand how science works and how it can be conducted in a credible way. The Latin word persona means mask and the discussions of the term were elaborations of Marcel Mauss´s introduction of the concept in an article published in 1938 (Mauss 1938). In Mauss´s conceptualisation, persona was a feature that characterized societies in an evolutionary stage—a stage where members of the society had started to perceive themselves as individuals, but were still expected to fulfill certain, culturally defined roles. In such contexts, persona was not mask to cover the ‘real’ self of the performer, but a mask that enhanced certain features of the person. Transferring Mauss’s approach to the scientific world, Lorraine Daston and Otto Sibum (2003) defined, in an often cited article in Science in Context, scientific persona as an intermediate between individual biography and social (scientific) institution: it is a cultural identity that forms the individual in body and mind, and creates a collective with a shared and recognizable physiognomy (ways to be and to behave). Daston and Sibum characterized scientific personas as templates that emerge and develop in historical contexts and used the concept to investigate the creation of certain types of scientists: when, how and why have distinct “scientific personae” emerged?


Scientific Persona; History; History of Science

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