Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts

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Princeton University Press, Sep 21, 1986 - Social Science - 294 pages

This highly original work presents laboratory science in a deliberately skeptical way: as an anthropological approach to the culture of the scientist. Drawing on recent work in literary criticism, the authors study how the social world of the laboratory produces papers and other "texts,"' and how the scientific vision of reality becomes that set of statements considered, for the time being, too expensive to change. The book is based on field work done by Bruno Latour in Roger Guillemin's laboratory at the Salk Institute and provides an important link between the sociology of modern sciences and laboratory studies in the history of science.

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User Review  - jorgearanda - LibraryThing

This anthropological study of scientists is at times thought-provoking and at times, it seems, intentionally obtuse. Latour and Woolgar's argument on the construction of facts (rather than their ... Read full review

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About the author (1986)

Bruno LaTour was born in the French province of Burgundy, where his family has been making wine for many generations. He was educated in Dijon, where he studied philosophy and Biblical exegesis. He then went to Africa, to complete his military service, working for a French organization similar to the American Peace Corps. While in Africa he became interested in the social sciences, particularly anthropology. LaTour believes that through his interests in philosophy, theology, and anthropology, he is actually pursuing a single goal, to understand the different ways that truth is built. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, LaTour has written about the philosophy and sociology of science in an original, insightful, and sometimes quirky way. Works that have been translated to English include The Pasteurization of France; Laboratory Life; Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society; We Have Never Been Modern; and Aramis, or the Love of Technology. LaTour is a professor at the Center for the Sociology of Innovation, a division of the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines, in Paris.

Jonas Salk, October 28, 1914 - June 23, 1995 Jonas Salk was born in New York City on October 28, 1914. He was the first member of his family to go to college, attending the City College of New York. He was intending to study law, but soon became intrigued by medical science. While attending medical school at New York University, Salk was invited to spend a year researching influenza. The virus that causes flu had only recently been discovered and Salk was eager to learn if the virus could be deprived of its ability to infect, while still giving immunity to the illness. Salk succeeded in this attempt, which became the basis of his later work on polio. After completing medical school and his internship, Salk returned to the study of influenza. In 1947, Salk accepted an appointment to the University of Pittsburgh Medical School. He worked specifically for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, where an opportunity arose to develop a vaccine against polio, and Salk devoted himself to this work for the next eight years. In 1955, Salk's years of research finally culminated. Human trials of the polio vaccine effectively protected the subject from the polio virus. When news of the discovery was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a miracle worker. He further endeared himself to the public by refusing to patent the vaccine. In countries where Salk's vaccine has remained in use, the disease has been virtually eradicated. In 1963, Salk founded the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies, an innovative center for medical and scientific research. Salk continued to conduct research and publish books, some written in collaboration with one or more of his sons, who are also medical scientists. Salk's published books include "Man Unfolding," published in 1972, "The Survival of the Wisest" published in 1973, "World Population and Human Values: A New Reality" published in 1981, and "Anatomy of Reality" published in 1983. Salk's last years were spent searching for a vaccine against AIDS. Jonas Salk died on June 23, 1995 at the age of 80.

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