There was a time, in the late 1970s and 1980s, when great feats were expected of recombinant DNA biotechnology, some verging on the miraculous. According to both business enthusiasts and sober analysts like the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the new techniques of gene splicing would not only lift the drug industry out of its deep scientific and economic rut (characterized by long-declining introduction rates of genuinely novel medicines), but rejuvenate the American manufacturing sector (Chase 1979; Chemical Week 1987; (...) OTA 1984). Once freed by policy interventions to promote academic-industry collaboration, such as the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, lifesaving drugs locked up in ivory towers would .. (shrink)
Book notice Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-2 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9588-3 Authors Nicolas Rasmussen, School of History and Philosophy, University of NSW, Sydney, 2052 Australia Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
The Second World War is commonly said to have ushered in theera of `big science' in the United States. However, at least inpractically-oriented biomedical research, the American governmentadopted modes of sponsorship that were commonplace between scientistsand industry before the war. Furthermore, many life scientistsleading wartime projects were already familiar with industrialcollaboration. This essay argues that the new federal regimes introduced in the late 1940s and 1950s were more important than wartime experience in shaping the character of biomedical `big science' in (...) the United States during the second half of thetwentieth century. (shrink)
In a 1993 paper, I argued that empirical treatments of the epistemologyused by scientists in experimental work are too abstract in practice tocounter relativist efforts to explain the outcome of scientificcontroversies by reference to sociological forces. This was because, atthe rarefied level at which the methodology of scientists is treated byphilosophers, multiple mutually inconsistent instantiations of theprinciples described by philosophers are employed by contestingscientists. These multiple construals change within a scientificcommunity over short time frames, and these different versions ofscientific methodology (...) can determine the outcome of a controversy. Iillustrated with a comparatively detailed analysis of the methodologyused by biologists debating the existence of an entity called thebacterial mesosome between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s. This 1993piece has drawn several critiques in the philosophical literature. Inthis present piece I respond to these critiques and argue that they failto address the core argument of the original paper, and I reflectfurther on the methodologies of philosophers of science pursuingempirical or `naturalistic' epistemology. (shrink)
The physiology of plant hormones was one of the most dynamic fields in experimental biology in the 1930s, and an important part of T. H. Morgan's influential life science division at the California Institute of Technology. I describe one episode of plant physiology research at the institution in which faculty member James Bonner discovered that the B vitamin thiamin is a plant growth regulator, and then worked in close collaboration with the Merck pharmaceutical firm to develop it as a growth-boosting (...) agrichemical. This episode allows one to draw continuities between certain fields of life science in the United States circa 1940 and the biotechnology industry today, and also foregrounds a number of similarities between plant physiology of the late 1930s and the molecular biology of the period. (shrink)