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September 30th, 2004

Nano Before There Was Nano

The Chemical Heritage Foundation will host the 2005 Cain Conference on March 19, 2005 to begin exploring the pre-history of nanotechnology and to situate that history with respect to the histories of nano’s constituent communities.


Nano Before There Was Nano: Historical Perspectives on the Constituent Communities of Nanotechnology

2005 Cain Conference
Chemical Heritage Foundation
March 19, 2005

Call for papers:

Abstract submission deadline: December 1, 2004

“Nanotechnology” is the first boom science of the twenty-first century. With the founding of myriad national, corporate, and academic nano-initiatives in 2000, nanotechnology became a mainstream way of framing research. Yet it is still unclear what nanotechnologists actually do and where they came from. In part, these questions can be understood by examining the histories of nanotechnology’s constituent communities. As nanotechnology has gained credibility and institutional support, it has welcomed or appropriated a wide variety of technical subcultures. To date, histories of most of these fields have not foreshadowed the sudden importance of nano to their participants. Yet a better understanding of the history and social organization of these communities – singly and together – will elucidate the history of nanotechnology.

The Chemical Heritage Foundation will host the 2005 Cain Conference on March 19, 2005 to begin piecing together these disjointed histories, mimicking nanotechnology’s own piecing together of its constituent communities. Scholars in the history, sociology, and anthropology of any of the fields that are being incorporated into nanotechnology are invited to submit abstracts (350 words or less) for a 20-30 minute presentation. Abstracts are due by December 1, 2004. Potential areas of interest include:

  • materials science
  • microelectronics
  • biotechnology
  • futurism
  • surface science
  • science fiction
  • microscopy and other instrumentation
  • chemistry and all chemical subfields
  • associated technologies (vacuum equipment, clean rooms, etc.)
  • condensed matter physics
  • microfluidics
  • ur-nano craft communities (e.g. glassmaking, metallurgy, ceramics)
  • simulation and modeling
  • electron physics
  • MEMS and mechanical engineering
  • electrical engineering
  • buckyballs, nanotubes, and other canonically nano materials

Papers need not tell an explicit story about the history of nanotechnology. They should, however, describe one (or more) of nano’s constituent communities in the pre- or proto-nano period – experimental and theoretical cultures, training, placement within corporate, national, and academic institutions, sources of funding, professionalization, modes of collaboration, general orientation to other subfields – with a view to explaining the conditions under which this community became a part of nanotechnology today.

Send abstracts and queries to Cyrus Mody ( or Chemical Heritage Foundation, 315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106).

Copyright © Chemical Heritage Foundation

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