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Abstract (German)

Zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts begannen amerikanische Firmen in der Chemie- und Elektroindustrie Forschungslabore zu etablieren, die später weltberühmt wurden. Während historische Studien typischerweise einzelne Industrielabore untersucht haben, beleuchtet der Vortrag das gesamte Organisationsfeld der amerikanischen Industrieforschung im Zeitraum 1870-1930. Es wird gezeigt, wie Forschung in Industrieunternehmen durch gesellschaftlich geteilte Vorstellungen von Wissenschaft legitimiert werden musste. Hierzu wird mithilfe einer umfassenden Diskursanalyse der kulturelle Kontext analysiert, in dem Industrielabore entstehen und sich verbreiten konnten.

Abstract (English)

With the beginning of the twentieth century, American corporations in the chemical and electrical industries began establishing industrial research laboratories. Some of those – such as DuPont's Experimental Station or General Electric's Research Laboratory – went on to become world-famous, not only for their scientific and technological breakthroughs, but also for the new union of science and industry they represented. But new ideas never appear out of the blue and spread on their own merit. Instead, the laboratory's diffusion takes place in a cultural context that goes beyond corporate capital and technological change, a context that spans the societal transformations of the Gilded Age up to the end of WWI. By using discourse analysis as a method to comprehensively capture the organizational field of the early American R&D laboratories from 1870 to 1930, the book uncovers the collective meanings associated with the industrial laboratory. Meanings such as what (and where) a laboratory is supposed to be, who the scientist is, and what it means to practice science provided cultural resources that made the transfer of the laboratory from academic science into an industrial setting possible by rendering such meanings understandable and operable to big business and organizational entrepreneurs pushing for change and fighting for hegemony in a rapidly evolving market.