From presentation to representation in E. B. Wilson's The Cell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Diagrams make it possible to present scientific facts in more abstract and generalized form. While some detail is lost, simplified and accessible knowledge is gained. E. B. Wilson's work in cytology provides a case study of changing uses of diagrams and accompanying abstraction. In his early work, Wilson presented his data in photographs, which he saw as coming closest to “fact.” As he gained confidence in his interpretations, and as he sought to provide a generalized textbook account of cell development, he relied on increasingly abstract diagrams. In addition, he came to see that highly abstract and even schematic drawings could provide more than pictures directly from life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-254
Number of pages28
JournalBiology and Philosophy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1991


  • Abstract(ion)
  • Wilson
  • cell
  • cytology
  • diagram
  • drawing
  • fact
  • knowledge
  • photograph

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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