[Marxism] How does science work today (was People's History of Science)

robert montgomery ilyenkova at gmail.com
Wed Mar 1 12:00:47 MST 2006


I haven't yet read Cliff's book so can't comment on the Rod Hs >no
difference between astrology and astronomy (or some such)< charge. 
The exchange between RH and Les has been interesting but there are
much bigger fish to fry  than the theoretical science vs engineering
technology split-- namely, the question as to whether science actually
can occur outside the tentacles of the giant tech corporations (i.e.
in Bio Medical). In this regard the development of medical MRI
scanning is instructive.
In 1969,  Roger Damadian, an M.D. proposed that human tissue could be
differentiated by a combination of applied magnetic fields and
radiofrequency waves. (Academic scientists, Purcell and Bloch had
discovered Mag resonance as a phenomenon in the 1930s and it had been
used since then to spectroscopically analyse chemical samples.) To
universal derision, chemist Paul Lauterbur published a paper on the
feasability of MRI for diagnostic imaging, based on Damadian's work
with mice in 1973. Damadian formed his own company FONAR. By 1977 he
had produced the 1st human body MRI scan, and by 1980 Damadian's
scanners were commercially available. By the mid 1980s the giant
medical imaging firms GE, Siemens, Phillips etc had taken over the MRI
market.
Basically, they had followed FONAR's progress, letting it shoulder the
R&D costs and start-up risks. When FONAR arrived with the officially
pronounced greatest revolution in medical diagnostic technology since
the x-ray, the giants moved right in and by 2002 had sold 22,000
scanners performing over 66 million scans per year. BTW: Cost per
scanner was almost $2 million last I looked back in 1988!
In a way, since Damadian developed the MRI scanner, the answer is that
scientific work can be done independently of corporate capital. On the
other hand, he gets credit only as an "inventor," and none of the real
progression in scanning technology has occurred beyond the aegis of
the GEs and Siemens's. When I was a tec I often asked if the lag
dveloping MRI had to do with the corporate giants interest in
protecting existing massive investments in CT scanning technology?
Most corporate service reps would shrug their shoulders and answer,
"Well obviously that's got to be a consideration, wouldn't you say
Bob?"
RM




More information about the Marxism mailing list