Innogen · Publications · Journal articles
Academic and Molecular Matrices: A Study of the Transformations of Connective Tissue Research at the University of Manchester (1947–1996)
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (2) 233-245
This paper explores the different identities adopted by connective tissue research at the University of Manchester during the second half of the 20th century. By looking at the long-term redefinition of a research programme, it sheds new light on the interactions between different and conflicting levels in the study of biomedicine, such as the local and the global, or the medical and the biological. It also addresses the gap in the literature between the first biomedical complexes after World War II and the emergence of biotechnology. Connective tissue research in Manchester emerged as a field focused on new treatments for rheumatic diseases. During the 1950s and 60s, it absorbed a number of laboratory techniques from biology, namely cell culture and electron microscopy. The transformations in scientific policy during the late 70s and the migration of Manchester researchers to the US led them to adopt recombinant DNA methods, which were borrowed from human genetics. This resulted in the emergence of cell matrix biology, a new field which had one of its reference centres in Manchester. The Manchester story shows the potential of detailed and chronologically wide local studies of patterns of work to understand the mechanisms by which new biomedical tools and institutions interact with long-standing problems and existing affiliations.