The aim of this article is to make a case for the pertinence of a biographical approach to the history of scientific objects. I first lay out the rationale of that approach by revisiting and extending my earlier work on the topic. I consider the characteristics of scientific objects that motivate the biographical metaphor, and I indicate its virtues and limitations by bringing out the positive and negative analogies between biographies of scientific objects and ordinary biographies. I then point out various ways in which scientific objects may pass away and argue that their demise should be conceptualized as a process. Finally, I sketch the history of the concept of “ether” in nineteenth and early twentieth century physics and suggest that it lends itself particularly well to a biographical treatment. To that effect, I discuss the identity, heuristic character, and recalcitrance of the ether and examine the reasons that may have led to its passing.
Department of History and Philosophy of Science, School of Sciences, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, University Campus, Ano Ilisia, 157 71 Athens, Greece Tel./Fax: +30 210 7275524 e-mail: email@example.com