HSOC Fall 2016 Speakers Series: Chris Toumey

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Chris Toumey presents "Putting Scientific Knowledge into History and Society: the Work of Ludwik Fleck."

In 1935, the Polish/Jewish microbiologist Ludwik Fleck published Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, which anticipated later constructivist approaches to scientific knowledge, e.g., the sociology of scientific knowledge that was developed in Edinburgh four decades later.  It is regrettable that Fleck's work was obscure in his lifetime, and remained so until his book was translated into English in 1979.  In this presentation, I review Fleck's career and summarize his theories about scientific knowledge, especially his views about the history and sociology of scientific knowledge.  On that basis we can compare Fleck's work with that of Robert Merton, Thomas Kuhn, and the Edinburgh school of the sociology of knowledge.

Chris Toumey is a cultural anthropologist (Ph.D. from UNC - Chapel Hill) who works in the anthropology of science.  Since 2003 he has been involved in societal and cultural issues in nanotechnology.  His interests there include these: public engagement with nanotech; religious reactions to nanotech; issues in the history of nanotech; and epistemological issues of technology and aesthetics in producing and interpreting micrographs of nanoscale objects (e.g., atoms, molecules and atomic surfaces).  He is the author of more than eighty publications on nanotechnology, including his humanistic commentaries that appear four times a year in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, where he aspires to show scientists and engineers that the humanities and social sciences can contribute to our understandings of nanotechnology.  

Co-sponsored by the School of History and Sociology (HSOC) and the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology (IEN).




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