International Handbook on Regulating Nanotechnologies
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International Handbook on Regulating Nanotechnologies

Edited by Graeme A. Hodge, Diana M. Bowman and Andrew D. Maynard

As scientists and technologists discover how to engineer matter at the nanoscale in increasingly sophisticated ways, conventional approaches to ensuring safe use are being brought into question. Nanotechnologies are challenging traditional regulatory regimes; but they are also prompting new thinking on developing and using emerging technologies safely. In this Handbook, leading international authors from industry, government, non-governmental organisations and academia examine the complex and often controversial regulatory challenges presented by nanotechnologies. Across several disciplinary boundaries, they explore how the future regulatory landscape may evolve. From the Europe Union to the United States, workplaces to personal products, and statutory instruments through to softer approaches, it is clear that considerable vigilance will be needed in governing these powerful and novel technologies. To succeed, society will need new thinking, new partnerships and new mechanisms to balance the benefits of these technologies against their possible downsides. Anything less will prompt cries of illegitimacy and potentially compromise a promising new realm of technology innovation.
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Chapter 3: Tracing and Disputing the Story of Nanotechnology

Chris Toumey


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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