Experimental reports rich in circumstantial detail were designed to enable readers of the text to create a mental image of an experimental scene they did not directly witness. I call this ‘virtual witnessing’, and its importance was as a means of enlarging the witnessing public. The notion of a ‘public’ for experimental science is, I argue, essential to our understanding of how facts are generated and validated. In these episodes, circumstantial reporting was a technique for creating a public and thus constituting authentic knowledge.

On how Robert Boyle’s 1660 letter New Experiments Physico-Mechanicall created modern science.