Modeling molecules: Computational nanotechnology as a knowledge community

Perspectives on Science 17 (2):pp. 144-173 (2009)
Abstract
I propose that a sociological and historical examination of nanotechnologists can contribute more to an understanding of nanotechnology than an ontological definition. Nanotechnology emerged from the convergent evolution of numerous "technical knowledge communities"-networks of tightly-interconnected people who operate between disciplines and individual research groups. I demonstrate this proposition by sketching the co-evolution of computational chemistry and computational nanotechnology. Computational chemistry arose in the 1950s but eventually segregated into an ab initio, basic research, physics-oriented flavor and an industry-oriented, molecular modeling and visualization, biochemical flavor. Computational nanotechnology arose in the 1990s as a synthesis of these two subgroups, infused by people and practices from computational materials science, engineering, computer science, and elsewhere. I show that to understand the aims and outcomes of computational nanotechnology-and nanotechnology more generally-we need to understand relationships between different, but related, nano knowledge communities and their dependence on particular practices, artifacts, and theories.
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