Medicine And Books

Crafting Science: A Sociohistory of the Quest for the Genetics of Cancer; Between Bench and Bedside: Science, Healing, and Interleukin-2 in a Cancer Ward

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7118.1318 (Published 15 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1318
  1. Steven Shapin
  1. Department of Sociology and Science Studies Program, University of California, San Diego, USA

    Crafting Science: A Sociohistory of the Quest for the Genetics of Cancer

    Joan H Fujimura Harvard University Press, £29.95, pp 322 ISBN 0 674 15553 0

    Between Bench and Bedside: Science, Healing, and Interleukin-2 in a Cancer Ward

    llana Löwy Harvard University Press, £26.50, pp 370 ISBN 0 674 06809 2

    Many years ago, a friend who had just been interviewed by a sociologist said, more in sorrow than in anger, “She didn't seem interested in what I did.” What he meant was that he spent much of his day calculating the energies of subatomic particle interactions, and the sociologist never asked him anything about that. This was “technical stuff,” and, while you might not expect a sociologist know much about such things, this was what my friend was trained to do and what gave him his identity as a scientist of a certain kind. So, even if it was understandable that sociologists might choose to pass by on the other side of the technical, a sociology of science without the science still seemed an odd sort of enterprise.

    About 25 years ago, sociologists began to agree: sociologists had to become “ethnographers,” hanging out where knowledge was made and learning the culture of those places. Science was still to be understood in its collective aspects—that's why sociologists tend to be interested in interactions rather than in individuals—but what made scientific collectivities communities of a certain sort was what they knew together and what they knew how to do together. There was no way to find out about that except by getting …

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