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Recasting the Local and the Global: The Three Lives of Protein Sequencing in Spanish Biomedical Research (1967–1995)

Garcia-Sancho, M

October 2015

in ‘The Local Configuration of New Research Fields - On Regional and National Diversity’

Merz, M and Sormani, P (Eds)

Springer - Volume 29 of the series Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook

ISBN 978-3-319-22682-8 (hardback)

This chapter explores how protein sequencing – a technique enabling the determination of the fine structure of protein chains – circulated across different biomedical fields in Spain during the last third of the twentieth century.
By focusing on three individual scientists, I argue that protein sequencing had three distinct Spanish lives and was inextricably linked to the biographies of its users.

Between 1967 and 1995, protein sequencing shifted from an aid to prevent agrarian plagues in Franco’s dictatorship to a promising diagnostic tool in the transition towards democracy and, finally, an out-of-fashion technique overshadowed by the emergence of recombinant DNA methods.

My proposed three lives challenge oversimplistic comparative frameworks and suggest that the local configuration of a new scientific technique should not be sought in its similarities or idiosyncratic differences with a given ‘global’. Protein sequencing in Spain was rather shaped by the researchers’ will of constructing a professional space of their own and achieving a complex equilibrium between the fulfilment of local demands and the engagement with what was considered international and cutting-edge at each historical time.