The Scientists’ Role and Medical Innovations

  • Ilana Löwy
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 302)


The chapter focuses on medicine and argues against the hasty dismissal of much of the classic sociology of science by a new generation of scholars. Ben-David tied the diffusion of disciplinary thought and innovation to his concept of the scientist’s role. Bacteriology and psychoanalysis served as examples. In both cases, a ‘role-hybridization’ was said to be instrumental in the move from the original disciplinary field to the new focus. The chapter explores this diffusion process on the basis of two examples: screening for cancer; and prenatal diagnosis. In both innovations, the impetus to develop these novelties did not originate with a specific group of scholars or professionals—and specifically not in their intent to transcend a constricting ‘role’, as Ben-David might have suggested. Rather the innovations came into being as the result of an interplay of various stakeholders.


Scientific Practice Scientific Enterprise Moral Economy Multiple Reference Frame Scientific Ethos 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CERMESCedex VillejuifFrance

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