Edited by Graeme A. Hodge, Diana M. Bowman and Andrew D. Maynard
Chapter 3: Tracing and Disputing the Story of Nanotechnology
Chris Toumey 3.1 INTRODUCTION Nanotechnology is a multi-faceted area of scientific investigation, and as such it has descended from many scientific and engineering disciplines. It makes no sense to speak of a single origin of nanotechnology. Instead, there were many discoveries, experiments, inventions, publications, and other developments that contributed to the formation of nanotechnology, and continue to do so today. A history of nanotechnology, to be complete and accurate, would recognize many contributions from many sources and many disciplines, including electronics, materials science, molecular biology, quantum physics, synthetic chemistry and electron microscopy, without specifying one event that supposedly initiated everything else. One could correctly say that some events were more important than others, but this is not equivalent to a simple reductionist portrait of the origin of nanotechnology. Nevertheless, it is attractive to some people to wrap nanotechnology in a simple logic. Often it takes this form: everything is made of atoms and molecules (which is true); nanotechnology is the observation, manipulation and manufacture of matter at the scale of atoms and molecules (which is also true); from this we conclude that nanotechnology is the philosopher’s stone that will give us unlimited control over matter (which is not likely, because matter at the nanoscale must obey certain laws of nature that we cannot violate or repeal). The historical equivalent to this simple logic is to say that one singular event constituted the discovery of this philosopher’s stone. It is not unusual to hear accounts that render the history of nanotechnology...
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