Instrumental Lives- An Intimate Biography of an Indian Laboratory

Journal of Scientometric Research,2019,8,3,161-166.
Published:December 2019
Type:Book Review
Author(s) affiliations:

Ashish Gosain

Ph.D Scholar, Centre for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 110067, INDIA.


The Book tries to weave an intimate biographical account of a physicist, Prof. CV Dharmadhikari, and his work on the scanning tunneling Microscope and Atomic Force Microscope. The book begins by author’s encounter with the scientist in a very realistic and interesting manner. He begins opening up the potential of his work for STS studies, in terms of its ethnographic methodological engagement. There can be divergences of his conceptualization of social construction of technology and its entanglements with the democratization of S&T, a unique conceptualization of an Indian “Modernity” of sorts, as it were. But even in doing so, one does recognize the absence of neat categories and ideal types that exist in other sociologists’ conceptualization of Life inside the laboratory as a conceptual “Black Box”. The Book does remind one of the undercurrents of the Laboratory Life by Bruno Latour but somewhat retains its unique biographical flavor. The account of the first encounter serves to underscore how and to what extent the scientist is to be placed within society and whether they can be seen as distinct from it and its concerns. Also crucial is the episode where the scientist comes in touch with society through communication in public media (p. 4). The entete of the author with the laboratory life comes across as routine, exciting yet idiosyncratic all at once. The archetype and material embodiment of disorder from which the production of order and meaning takes place, as recorded by the author, does convey the excitement of a maverick. His attempts at tracing the scientist’s history, trajectory and chronology of the scientific journey is laudable and contributes well to contextualizing a scientists’ thinking process within the laboratory and how he goes about doing his business as it were. The context provided by the end of life perspective to one’s career trajectory outlines a vivid account of a modern physics laboratory located in the subcontinent. Chapter 2 outlines the artefact and the scientific journey behind it. Read More ...


Instrumental Lives- An Intimate Biography of an Indian Laboratory