Troubled Lives

in Landscapes and Labscapes

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780226450094
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226450117 | DOI:
Troubled Lives

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  • History of Science and Technology


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Material culture and practices are powerful agencies of change in science. Practices are not just ways of making knowledge but also ways of life, and making a career has a social logic that may or may not coincide with professional credibility and output. The existential, affective dimension of careers and lives also plays into the choice of instruments and practices. There were the practical difficulties of taking laboratory methods into the field. Turning smart ideas into workable experiments is never easy, but it was especially difficult when laboratory and field imperatives both had to be met. The difficulties of operating simultaneously under two systems of cultural rules are what created the unusual gap between aspiration and reality. An unusual gap between ideals and real experience, and the absence of reliable fallbacks, resulted in a high mortality rate of attempted projects and a pattern of stunted, deflected, and wrecked careers. Ambiguous identity is another defining experience of border life. Scientists take their identities from their work and workplaces—as is the case with most middle-class occupations.

Keywords: material culture; instruments; troubled lives; ideas; scientists

Chapter.  15330 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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