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Imperial Technoscience

Transnational Histories of MRI in the United States, Britain, and India

Amit Prasad

Publication Year: 2014

The origin of modern science is often located in Europe and the West. This Euro/West-centrism relegates emergent practices elsewhere to the periphery, undergirding analyses of contemporary transnational science and technology with traditional but now untenable hierarchical categories. In this book, Amit Prasad examines features of transnationality in science and technology through a study of MRI research and development in the United States, Britain, and India. In an analysis that is both theoretically nuanced and empirically robust, Prasad unravels the entangled genealogies of MRI research, practice, and culture in these three countries. Prasad follows sociotechnical trails in relation to five aspects of MRI research: invention, industrial development, market, history, and culture. He first examines the well-known dispute between American scientists Paul Lauterbur and Raymond Damadian over the invention of MRI, then describes the post-invention emergence of the technology, as the center of MRI research shifted from Britain to the U.S; the marketing of the MRI and the transformation of MRI research into a corporate-powered "Big Science"; and MRI research in India, beginning with work in India's nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) laboratories in the 1940s. Finally, he explores the different dominant technocultures in each of the three countries, analyzing scientific cultures as shifting products of transnational histories rather than static products of national scientific identities and cultures. Prasad's analysis offers not only an innovative contribution to current debates within science and technology studies but also an original postcolonial perspective on the history of cutting-edge medical technology.

Published by: The MIT Press

Series: Inside Technology


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This book has taken a very long time to complete. It owes its existence to the generosity and support of many people. To start with, I would like to thank the MRI scientists in India, Britain, and the United States who not only agreed to be interviewed by me but also...

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pp. 1-14

“The world is flat.” As soon as I wrote [these words], I realized that this was the underlying message that I had seen and heard in Bangalore in two weeks of filming. The global competitive field was being leveled. The world was being flattened. I had come to Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, on my own Columbus-like journey...

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1. “Invention” of MRI: Priority Dispute, Contested Identities, and Authorship Regime

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pp. 15-36

In 2003, when Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield were awarded the Nobel Prize for their contribution to the development of MRI, Raymond Damadian reacted sharply to his exclusion. “The Nobel committee is rewriting history,” he told Reuters.3 To give voice to their outrage, Damadian and...

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2. Translating a Dream into Reality: Birth of MRI and Genesis of a “Big Science”

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pp. 37-58

Celebration of MRI as “the ultimate imaging technique” is today neither uncommon nor unwarranted. But, in the 1970s, scientists and nonscientists alike were unsure whether it could ever be developed. Thus, when it came to MRI, even Ervin Hahn, one of the pioneers of NMR research, was...

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3. Marketing Medicine’s “Sports Car”: The United States Becomes the “Center”

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pp. 59-78

“People want this smart test [MRI],” John Caronna, a professor of clinical neurology, told the New York Times in 1991. “There’s no way to shut it off. The doctors crave it, it’s reassuring, and patients crave it.”2 The professor was not far off the mark: the MRI market did expand rapidly in the second...

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4. Recovering “Peripheral” History: Genealogy of MRI Research in India

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pp. 79-98

If the history of “modern science” in the non-West has been constituted as the “other” of the history of science in the West, Euro/West-centric historicism has ensured that it also remain inextricably bound and subservient to that same history.1 Consequently, it has become an appended and...

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5. Three Cultures of MRI: Local Practices and Global Designs

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pp. 99-114

Despite fears to the contrary, “scientific culture” remains among the most pervasive and influential cultures in the world.1 As a universal culture of exalted values, it also continues to present “a map for the rearrangement” of other cultures.2 Nevertheless, sociological investigators have found the...

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Conclusion: Looking Back/Moving Forward

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pp. 115-118

The Manchester Guardian’s 2011 headline “Nobel Prizes: Asian Scientists Set to Topple America’s Run of Wins” may seem premature, but it no longer sounds implausible.2 In fact, its discursive presence reflects a recent dramatic shift in the transnational geography of technoscience.3 Yet, even in this...


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pp. 119-170


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pp. 171-196


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pp. 197-216

Series Page

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E-ISBN-13: 9780262322065
E-ISBN-10: 0262322064
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262026956

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Inside Technology
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OCLC Number: 877868391
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Imperial Technoscience

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Magnetic resonance imaging -- Great Britain.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging -- United States.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging -- India.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging -- History.
  • Medical innovations.
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