MUSTS Colloquium about Cyrus Mody’s The Long Arm of Moore’s Law

Wednesday November 15, 15:30-17:00, Grote Gracht 80-82, Attic.

With Thomas Heinze, Geert Somsen & Cyrus Mody
The Long Arm of Moore’s Law: Microelectronics and American Science

This MUSTS meeting will be an Author-meets-Critics-like session on Cyrus Mody’s book The Long Arm of Moore’s Law: Microelectronics and American Science (MIT, 2016). Commentators are Professor Thomas Heinze (University of Wuppertal) and MUSTS-member Geert Somsen.

About “The Long Arm”
Since the mid-1960s, American science has undergone significant changes in the way it is organized, funded, and practiced. These changes include the decline of basic research by corporations; a new orientation toward the short-term and the commercial, with pressure on universities and government labs to participate in the market; and the promotion of interdisciplinarity. In this book, Cyrus Mody argues that the changes in American science that began in the 1960s co-evolved with and were shaped by the needs of the “civilianized” US semiconductor industry.
In 1965, Gordon Moore declared that the most profitable number of circuit components that can be crammed on a single silicon chip doubles every year. Mody views “Moore’s Law” less as prediction than as self-fulfilling prophecy, pointing to the enormous investments of capital, people, and institutions the semiconductor industry required—the “long arm” of Moore’s Law that helped shape all of science.
Mody offers a series of case studies in microelectronics that illustrate the reach of Moore’s Law. He describes the pressures on Stanford University’s electrical engineers during the Vietnam era, IBM’s exploration of alternatives to semiconductor technology, the emergence of consortia to integrate research across disciplines and universities, and the interwoven development of the molecular electronics community and associated academic institutions as the vision of a molecular computer informed the restructuring of research programs.

Thomas Heinze (1974) is Professor of Organizational Sociology at the University of Wuppertal, Germany, where he is Deputy Director of the Institute of Sociology and Deputy Director of the Interdisciplinary Center of Science and Technology Studies (IZWT). His latest book (together with Richard Münch) is: Innovation in Science and Organizational Renewal: Historical and Sociological Perspectives (Palgrave, 2016). His research interests include emergence and diffusion of scientific breakthroughs, public research organizations, research evaluation, theories of institutional change, organizational theory, and comparative historical sociology.

Geert Somsen teaches history of science at Maastricht University. His research focuses on scientific internationalism in the twentieth century, especially the idealization and promotion of science as a model for international relations. His most recent article is “Science, Fascism, and Foreign Policy: the Exhibition ‘Scienza Universale’ at the 1942 Rome World’s Fair,” forthcoming in Isis, December 2017. His most recent books are: Pursuing the Unity of Science: Ideology and Scientific Practice from the Great War to the Cold War (Ashgate 2016), edited with Harmke Kamminga, and Neutrality in Twentieth-Century Europe: Intersections of Science, Culture and Politics after the First World War (Routledge 2012), edited with Rebecka Lettevall and Sven Widmalm. Between 2014 and 2017 Somsen was a Marie Curie International Outgoing fellow at Columbia University and the Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (project “Science and World Order”). He is editor of Studium, the Low Countries’ Review for History of Science.