Negotiated Identities of Chemical Instrumentation

The Case of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, 1956–1969

Authors

  • JODY A. ROBERTS

    Corresponding author
    1. Science & Technology Studies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, USA
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Address for correspondence: Jody A. Roberts, Science & Technology Studies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061. Voice: 540-231-7879; fax: 540-231-6367. jody@vt.edu

Abstract

Abstract: What is an NMR spectrometer? Beginning with this seemingly simple question, I will explore the development of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy between the years 1956 and 1969 from two vantage points: the organic chemists who used the new instrument, and Varian Associates—the makers of the first NMR spectrometers—. Through an examination of the articles and advertisements published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry, I will draw two conclusions. First, organic chemists and Varian Associates (along with other actors) are co-responsible for the development of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (i.e., NMR spectroscopy was not created by a single actor). Second, by changing the way NMR spectrometers are used, organic chemists attempted to change to the identity of the instrument. Similarly, when Varian Associates advertised their NMR spectrometers in a different way, they, too, attempted to change the identity of the instrument.

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