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Society for Social Studies of Science celebrates 40 years

Sheila Jasanoff

The first meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) took place at Cornell in 1976. This month, the 40th anniversary of that meeting will be celebrated on campus with “Where has STS Traveled?” – a two-day program reflecting on developments in the field of science and technology studies over the last four decades.

“Cornell’s long history in science and technology studies, beginning in the 1960s, made Cornell the logical place for the first annual meeting of 4S," said Bruce Lewenstein, chair of science and technology studies and professor of science communication. "The momentum from that first meeting carried through to the building of Cornell’s Biology & Society major and ultimately the founding of the Department of Science and Technology Studies, and we’re delighted to be celebrating the anniversary here at Cornell.” 

“Cornell always has been ground zero for the new field of STS,” said Trevor Pinch, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Science and Technology Studies, who recalled the 1976 meeting at Cornell being held in a room on the top floor of Clark Hall. “From that tiny gathering, the society has evolved into a major global society, with over 2,000 participants attending its latest meeting in Barcelona.”

Lewenstein noted that Cornell faculty and students have continued as leaders in science and technology studies, having served as editors of many of its major journals.

“Cornell has also made important contributions in expanding the field, so that it now has influence in a wide range of disciplines,” including anthropology, political science, communication, philosophy, literary studies, biology, environmental studies and information science, as well as in the original fields of sociology, history and policy studies, he said.

The anniversary celebration begins Oct. 27 at 4:30 p.m. and runs until 6 p.m. Oct. 28. All events will be in 700 Clark Hall.

The plenary speaker is Sheila Jasanoff, the Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and the founding chair of STS at Cornell. Bruno Latour, an A.D. White Professor-at-Large who presented at the 1976 meeting, will also participate in the celebration.

Linda B. Glaser is a staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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