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Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts Reprint Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691028323
ISBN-10: 069102832X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The pioneering 'laboratory study' in the sociology of scientific knowledge. . . . The first and, deservedly, the most influential book-length account of day-to-day work in a single laboratory setting."--ISIS

"Laboratory Life succeeds and will continue to succeed, and to win friends and allies, because it contains good, persuasive ideas, such as the analyses of modalities and of splitting. These ideas have been generated by excellent social scientists. All the rest is so much window undressing."--H. M. Collins, Isis

"Eight years after Laboratory Life first came out, it is still one of my favourite books on the social studies of science. . . . [F]or those in the business of reflecting on the nature of science who have not yet read Laboratory Life, here is a good opportunity to catch up and do so."--Ditta Bartels, Metascience

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069102832X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691028323
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #292,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Bosco Ho on August 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
It seems to me that the previous reviewer is either a wooly-head theoretician or that the previous reviewer hasn't actually done any research in a laboratory. Because in this book, there are many sparkling insights into the way that science is practised.
It takes a while for Latour to get going as he is quite verbose in the early section, where he discusses his "anthropological" approach to science studies. However, after that, he makes a couple of points that as far as I know, he was the first philosopher of science to make.
First, Latour demonstrates the intimate relationship between the publication of scientific papers, scientific prestige, laboratory finances and actual experiments. He makes the seemingly obvious, though not so when the book came out, that the possibility of experiments in a lab requires the influx of an amazing out of money. The acquisition of this research money takes up a large proportion of the time of the head honcho scientist in a laboratory .
Second, Latour shows that entities in science are always defined by a network of properties that are experimentally determined. Scientific entities are hardly ever seen as objects with a few simple analytical properties. In fact, the more properties the better. And it doesn't matter if the mesh of properties is convoluted and seemingly contradictory. For each property concerned, there must be a vast array of material techniques to measure, control and manipulate that property. A new entity in science is accepted as real only when there are enough inter-locking properties to guarantee its existence. No method, by itself, is ever convincing.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Kang on November 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
As a graduate student, I have gradually acknowledged the hidden rules of practicing sciences that, unfortunately, has never disclosed themselves during the regular programs. This book demistifies science and its practioners in the field using scientific methodology. This book becomes my favorite text at the expanse of T. Kuhn.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Linda W. on November 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best and most subtle exposition I have read of the claim that science is socially constructed. The observer spent two years in a neuro-endocrinology lab, beginning as a naive observer and ending with a thorough understanding of subject matter and culture of the lab. The beginning section, in which the observer does an anthropology of the lab is extremely interesting--what does such an ignorant but observant person see? The much later discussion of how the scientific community negotiates whether a given result is a fact or an artifact contains important insights. As a trained scientist, I found this book refreshing and informative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Riley Collins on July 1, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A classic in the field and a groundbreaking study in the philosophy of science. Latour and Woolgar's "anthropological" journey into the laboratory was the tipping point for an entire new subfield among anthropologists. A must read for any social scientist interested in social studies of science.
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