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Introduction: Surface Histories

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 August 2015

Mathias Grote
Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften, Humboldt-Universität zu, Berlin E-mail:
Max Stadler
Science Studies, ETH Zurich E-mail:


The first section of this issue brings together four essays on “surfaces” – a subject matter which might seem conspicuous or, indeed, palpable enough. Just think of the sheets of paper, window panes, and haptic interfaces surrounding you: the world, evidently, is diffused with surfaces, membranes, and boundaries of all sorts. Some of these things have been salient, for obvious reasons in fields such as media studies, or implicit in notions such as “boundary object”: the retina, photographic plates, basilar membranes, the skin, or various forms of “displays” immediately come to mind. Not even mentioning their immense metaphoricity, surfaces are the entities that make things visible, inscribable, or knowable. But not all of them have been so salient. In fact, most surface-phenomena arguably – and, typically, for similarly obvious reasons – haven't received much scholarly notice at all: plastic wraps, lacquers, lubricants, coatings, silicon wavers, cell membranes, glass, plant leaves, the ozone layer.

Topical Section: Surfaces in the History of Modern Science: Inscribing, Separating, Enclosing
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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