From Bench to Brand and Back: The Co-Shaping of Materials and Chemists in the Twentieth Century
Edited by Pierre Teissier, Cyrus C. M. Mody, Brigitte Van Tiggelen
Série III, n°2

Through eight case studies, this volume sketches the mutual shaping of chemists and materials in the long 20th century. The circulation among interconnected fields and activities from bench research to engineering processes to brand consumers to human cultures and the natural environment highlights two features of modern technosciences: scaling up and down and the transgressive, boundary-blurring ways in which people, things, and words affect (or trans-operate on) each other.

Résumé des articles

PIERRE TEISSIER, CYRUS C. M. MODY, BRIGITTE VAN TIGGELEN - Introduction: Material Things, Scales and Trans-Operations   [Article.pdf]

AUGUSTIN CERVEAUX - Paint as a Material: The Transformation of Paint Chemistry and Technology in America (ca. 1880-1920)   [Article.pdf]

This chapter recounts and analyzes the emergence of modern paint chemistry and technology in the United States. Until late in the 19th century, painting was above all a decorative art and craft, and chemists' role in the paint trade was largely circumscribed to the development of new pigments. At the turn of the 20th century, however, the protective dimension of paints rose in prominence and the standing and influence of chemists within the trade and industry rose tremendously. Charles Dudley, a chemist at the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, initiated this movement. A new field quickly coalesced around the American Society for Testing Materials, the Paint Manufacturers Association, and later the American Chemical Society. In the process, the paint coat became firmly established as a material in itself, rather than a mere mixture of heterogeneous ingredients. The erstwhile conflation of pure paint with good paint became suddenly obsolete.

ANITA QUYE - Quality Matters for Historical Plastics: The Past-Making of Cellulose Nitrates for Future Preservation   [Article.pdf]

The material degradation of an historical artifact through chemical breakdown may place the object at the end of its useful heritage life in terms of aesthetic value and appearance. But all is not lost in the ephemeral world of historical synthetic plastics. The chemical analyses of degraded cellulose nitrate artifacts have unlocked material clues that not only help explain stability variations to guide collec-tion care and preservation, but also bring insight into past manufacturing materials, methods and quality control during production. Translating the industrial materials of a degrading artifact by understanding its past to inform its future can revive it with a new cultural significance, and engages heritage scientists, historians and conservators in an innovative community of complementary science as defined by Hasok Chang (2004).

PHILIPPE MARTIN - Twentieth Century Fertilizers in France from Natural Mixing to Artificial Making (1890-1970)   [Article.pdf]

Compound fertilizer is a material composed of a mixture of primary nutrients. The physical constitution and presentation of compound fertilizer evolved from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. This material was originally the subject of purely empirical knowledge, but later it gradually attracted chemists, who developed it in confrontation with agronomists and farmers. In return, in the interwar period compound fertilizer gave the chemical community a sense of mission: to solve the urgent need to increase fertilizer consumption and to make the product rational with respect to transport costs, storage stability, ease of use, and, of course, agronomical efficiency. This paper traces the confrontation of actors and technical and industrial changes that guided the development of compound fertilizer in France from 1890 to 1970.

APOSTOLOS GERONTAS - Chromatographs as Epistemic Things: Communities around the Extraction of Material Knowledge   [Article.pdf]

Automated chromatography - gas chromatography and later high performance liquid chromatography - played an important role in the transformation of chemical analysis during the 1960s and 1970s. This chapter presents the historical narrative of the production and dissemination of chromatographic technology, and discusses the effects of the automation of separation at the social and epistemic levels. Emphasis is given to materiality, not only of chromatographic technological knowledge, but also of the knowledge produced by application of this technology in research.

PIERRE TEISSIER - The Exotic Glasses of Rennes (France): Local Knowledge-Making in Global Telecommunication   [Article.pdf]

This chapter tackles the question of local knowledge-making in changing scientific and eco-nomic environments in the field of advanced materials. It relies on a case study at the Uni-versity of Rennes, in Western France, where the chemistry laboratory of Jacques Lucas conducted a program on non-oxide glass materials from the 1960s onwards. The chapter aims at explaining how the local production of these exotic glasses in Rennes was both shaped by a bench culture of solid-state chemistry and international R&D supported by the telecommunications industry. This case exhibits how research on materials was organized by a transatlantic division of labor in the Western world.

JENS SOENTGEN - Making Sense of Chemistry: Synthetic Rubber in German Popular Scientific Literature (1929-2009)   [Article.pdf]

The chapter analyzes the popular literature on synthetic rubber between 1929 and 2009 and asks how popular science books explained and interpreted rubber research and development to a general (German) public. How does popular literature produce different narratives, including myths, of the same history? The invention and use of synthetic rubber were important topics in popular science literature in the Weimar Republic and during the Nazi period as well as after 1945 in the German Democratic Republic (DDR) and in the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD). Narratives and argumentative schemes of these books are analyzed, and it is shown how they constructed the social meaning of rubber and how the positive and negative resonance of this construction changed according to different political contexts.

SACHA LOEVE - Point and Line to Plane: The Ontography of Carbon Nanomaterials   [Article.pdf]

The carbons known today as fullerenes, nanotubes, and graphene were all observed or theo-rized well before becoming emblematic nanomaterials. However, by the 1990s, their mode of existence was shifted from bench or brand objects to technoscientific objects. After focusing on the separate life-stories of these carbons, this chapter recounts how, by eventually interweaving their trajectories and mutually referring to each other, these objects have reborn as a family of low-dimensional nanocarbons unfurling a space of indefinite technological possibilities saturated by promises of radical novelty: the nanoworld. The co-shaping of nanoworld and nanocarbons is reminiscent of that of the three basic figures composing the world of painting according to Kandinsky: point, line, and plane.

CYRUS C. M. MODY - The Diverse Ecology of Electronic Materials   [Article.pdf]

Silicon has been the dominant material in microelectronics for a half century. Other mate-rials, however, have subsidiary roles in microelectronics manufacturing. A few materials have even been promoted as replacements for silicon. Yet because of silicon's dominance, none of these alternatives has gone from bench to brand; nor could any of them progress from brand to bench. For these reasons, historians have paid little attention to silicon and almost none to other microelectronics materials. I show, however, that we can better understand how the organization of the semiconductor (silicon) industry has changed over time by examining alternative microelectronic materials. I do so by presenting two case studies: one of a superconducting computing program at IBM, the most likely candidate to overthrow silicon in the 70s; the other of carbon fullerenes, the most likely candidates to overthrow silicon today.
Date de parution et publication en ligne : juin 2017
ISSN 1297-9112 / ISBN 978-2-86939-244-3
Version papier disponible