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The disciplinary focus of available overviews of the history of nursing research neglects how such analyses might illuminate the broader questions of what factors in the world of research in general and nursing research in particular frame the intellectual processes of disciplined curiosity, reasoned inquiry, and painstaking experimentation. Because it is precisely these broader questions that are of increasingly vital concern to the history both of nursing and of knowledge development, suggested here are ways in which the history of research in nursing might be positioned as a case study of the interplay between the social and the scientific in the generation of new data, new knowledge, and new considerations. To this end, interconnected examples of social context and gender are used to show how recasting nurses as critical actors in and interpreters of the world of science and research may well prove to be the historian's intellectual contribution to the profession's drive for sustained legitimation and authority.