Crucial to the establishment of a scientific discipline is a body of knowledge organized around a set of instruments, interpretive techniques, and regimes of training in their application. In this paper, we trace the involvement of scientists and engineers at Varian Associates in the development of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometers from the first demonstrations of the NMR phenomenon in 1946 to the definitive takeoff of NMR as a chemical discipline by the mid-1960s. We examine the role of Varian scientists in constructing several models of NMR instruments for research scientists in the 1950s and the Varian efforts to influence the adoption of NMR as a standard tool for chemical analysis through Varian-supported publications, participation in scientific meetings, collaborations with academic chemists, workshops, and postdoctoral fellowships. Special attention is devoted to the development of the Varian A-60, the first commercial NMR instrument intended for the broadly trained chemist rather than a custom-built tool for the research specialist. Drawing on an examination of the use-rate of NMR instruments in chemical literature, the assessment of NMR in the chemical review literature by practitioners, and indicators of the establishment of a suitable funding environment for the growth of physics-based scientific instrumentation in the post-Sputnik era, we argue that the establishment of NMR as a discipline coincided with the adoption of the A-60 in the mid-1960s. During the period of our study, Varian Associates was a primary military contractor. This paper is intended to contribute to recent interest in the relation of military fundingto scientific enterprise during the Cold War and to the larger question of university-industry interactions in the growth of knowledge.
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September 04 1995
Instrument Makers and Discipline Builders: The Case of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
Online Issn: 1530-9274
Print Issn: 1063-6145
©1995 by The University of Chicago. All reserved.
The University of Chicago. All reserved.
Perspectives on Science (1995) 3 (3): 276–345.
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Timothy Lenoir, Christophe Lécuyer; Instrument Makers and Discipline Builders: The Case of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. Perspectives on Science 1995; 3 (3): 276–345. doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/posc_a_00485
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