Tag Archives: remembering

Bruno Latour, 1947-2022

It is with great sadness that the Center for the Sociology of Innovation has learned of the death of Bruno Latour, who was one of the pillars of our research center for 25 years. He developed his research and teaching activities at the École des Mines from 1982 to 2006, carrying out a large part of the work for which he is best known. The Center for the Sociology of Innovation remembers him as a particularly creative, original, inspiring but also witty colleague. Early on, at a time when French social sciences were rather inward-looking, Latour organized workshops that brought together researchers not only from different geographical areas but also from a wide range of disciplines including anthropology, art history, philosophy, history of technology, semiotics, ethology, mathematics, archaeology, and ethnology. He always encouraged freedom and creativity within and across intellectual domains and disciplines.

With Michel Callon and John Law, and later Madeleine Akrich and many other researchers, he led a radical renewal of the sociology of science and technology, through what was first called the sociology of translation, and then Actor-Network Theory – a theory soon to become internationally renowned. From his early research days onwards, Latour had used what Callon and Law had called the generalized principle of symmetry, which was as revolutionary in the eyes of anthropologists as it was in the eyes of epistemologists, in order to analyze the production of knowledge in Côte d’Ivoire with the tools of science, and the work of researchers in a Californian laboratory with the tools of anthropology. His stance: the universal is a particular like any other, it is the result of the meticulous production of inscriptions, not the discovery of a Nature already there.

His research in history, sociology and philosophy initially focused on scientific activity (Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts [1979, with Steve Woolgar]; Science in Action, How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society [1987]; The Pasteurization of France [1988]) and technical innovation (Aramis or the Love of Technology [1996]). His work found a favorable resonance within an engineering school, whilst science and technology were relatively ignored by the French social sciences. Already, however, the political philosophy reflection was present in these early works, and it became an increasingly explicit focus of the approach he developed from the 1990s onwards (We Have Never Been Modern [1993]; The Making of Law: An Ethnography of the Conseil d’Etat [2009]). It problematizes our relationship to nature (Politics of Nature. How to bring the sciences into democracy [2001] 2004; Pandora’s Hope [1999]), a theme that would drive him until the end of his career.

The CSI dinner in 2006, just before Bruno left for Sciences Po. From left to right: Florence Paterson, Cécile Méadel, Antoine Hennion, Catherine Lucas, Fabian Muniesa, Michel Callon, Philippe Mustar, Frédéric Vergnaud, Madeleine Akrich, Bruno Latour, Vololona Rabeharisoa, Yannick Barthe (Dominique Linhardt took the picture).

Starting from Charles Péguy, to whom his doctoral thesis was dedicated, and from religion to literature and painting (especially on the relationship between the earthly and the divine), from law to politics, from economics to organization: Bruno Latour was interested in the variety of these realities, at once distinct and closely related. From one field to another, he worked to meticulously describe the unique ways each of these realities is shaped, and his exploration culminated in his extensive Inquiry Into Modes of Existence [2012].

Madeleine Akrich, Bruno Latour (consulting the wine list), Vololona Rabeharisoa, and Yannick Barthe

With a growing sense of urgency, he devoted his energy to politicizing the Anthropocene in a way that only a few have done, anchoring ecological problems to their earthly manifestations and clearly identifying the enemies of those he called “Earthlings” (Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climate Regime [2017]). In doing so, he transformed the notion of network into an instrument to describe and question the conditions of life on earth, without ever abandoning his commitment to inquiry, inviting us to collectively ask: “What are we holding onto, where can we land, where are we?” (Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime [2018]; After Lockdown: A Metamorphosis [2021]).

So many questions that, thanks to his latest body of work, seem a little less dizzying.

Latour has been a key figure for the STS community. He gave a talk at the very first 4S conference held in 1976 in Ithaca, New York. And like Donna Haraway, with whom he debated on several occasions, he had an eloquence and a sense for catchphrases that made the public flock to the sessions in which he spoke at 4S and EASST conferences or elsewhere. Over the years, he has coined and redefined many of the concepts that STS scholars are familiar with: from black boxes to matters of concern, from immutable mobiles to the parliament of things. The common language that the STS community speaks today bears many traces of his intellectual craftsmanship. For his contribution to STS he received the John Desmond Bernal Prize in 1992. He served as the 4S president from 2004 to 2005. Several years later the importance of his work for the social sciences more generally was recognised by  the Holberg Prize in 2013 and the Kyoto Prize in 2021.

An outstanding educator, he devised collective experiments such as a teaching module on the study of controversies, which is still taught today at the École des Mines, and which has spread to other higher education institutions in France (Sciences Po Paris, École des Télécommunications, École des Ponts et Chaussées, AgroParisTech, etc.) and abroad (University of Manchester, MIT, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, etc.). His classes were witty, unpredictable, and memorable – he would, for instance, bring his collection of stolen hotel keys to showcase sociotechnical scripts in the flesh, so to speak. His students might be puzzled at first, but most walked out with a new attention to objects and a healthy suspicion of traditional dichotomies. One of his many memorable quotes in class: “You have to take the term information absolutely literally. The word cheese [fromage] is the word fourme, and fourme is where you put the whey. Information, infourmation: Information is cheese!”.

The research training workshops he led at the CSI, putting doctoral students at the center of the discussion and drawing on inventive writing exercises, illustrate the spirit in which he approached intellectual debates. He would for example make students rewrite each other’s PhD outlines, which yielded astonishing results, with new ideas emerging and analytical angles opening up. Or, in a more radical kind of challenge, he would ask them to perform a breaching experiment, and then to report on it. Through all these exercises, writing – as much as reading – ceased to be lonely and terrifying, but became a collective and joyful activity. In doing so, the aim was not so much for Latour to ‘disseminate’ his way of thinking, but really to push students (as well as colleagues) to think for themselves. Still today, doctoral students at the CSI do many of these exercises and Latour’s inventiveness continues to affect our ‘laboratory life’.

The researchers of the CSI express their gratitude to him.

IN MEMORIAM – Trevor Pinch (1952-2021)

Trevor Pinch has been immensely important to the field of science and technology studies, and way beyond. Not just by his impressive range and quality of publications, but because Trevor was life itself. Such a creative mind and lucid writer, his emails were always sparkling with energy, full of humour and exclamation marks. Evenings with Trevor, at dinners in the margins of workshops and conferences, were cheerful as the colourful stories he had to tell. His scholarship was genuinely collaborative. It was about enthusiastically sharing ideas, books, music and links, and a seemingly endless stream of ideas he found inspiring. To us, Trevor embodied the ideal colleague. 

Trevor Pinch was distinguished Goldwin Smith Professor of Science & Technology Studies and Professor of Sociology at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. He has been especially known for his prominent roles in establishing the scholarly fields of social studies of technology and sound studies. But he did much more. He started his science studies career with Harry Collins in Bath, UK, with studies of parapsychology and neutrino detection (Collins and Pinch 1982, Pinch 1986).1 His anthropological study of market traders was sold in airport bookshops (Clark and Pinch 1995). And an even larger readership he reached with the book series The Golem: What Everyone Should Know About Science, Technology and Medicine, written together with Harry Collins (Collins and Pinch 1993 (1998), Collins and Pinch 1998, Collins and Pinch 2005). This 3-volume series has been translated into 12 other languages. And then he played a self-built analogue synthesizer in the Electric Golem band, which earned him yet another audience in clubs in Ithaca and New York and on Spotify. 

In 1981, Trevor attended the very first EASST conference in the Burg Deutschlandsberg, near Graz in Austria. He presented his work on the detection of solar neutrino’s, resulting from his PhD research in Bath. That PhD project was almost finished, and Trevor would soon be on the job market. Wiebe Bijker was at the same conference to present his first paper on “The Social Construction of Technology”. They met over dinner and in the bar, trying the local Schilcherfrizzante. At the end of this pink-champagne drinking, Trevor accepted a one-year postdoc position at Twente University, The Netherlands, where he started on January 4th, 1982. That collaboration between Trevor and Wiebe resulted in the paper “The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts: or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology might Benefit Each Other”, first presented in a Paris workshop in Autumn 1982, then at the annual 4S conference in 1983, and finally published in 1984 (Pinch and Bijker 1984). The acronym SCOT for the proposed new approach of a ‘social construction of technology’ was coined by David Edge, the Edinburgh-based editor of Social Studies of Science. 

The presentations of this paper and the ensuing discussions made Trevor and Wiebe realize that there was a dormant interest within the science studies community to start investigating technologies. Hence, they decided to organize a workshop in Twente in 1983, to which, following Donald MacKenzie’s suggestion, they also invited historians of technology such as Thomas Hughes, Ruth Schwartz Cowan and Ed Constant. This resulted in an edited volume that among American students came to be called ‘the school bus book’, because of its yellow-black cover (Bijker, Hughes, and Pinch 2012 [1987]). That book spurred MIT Press to invite Trevor and Wiebe to start the book series ‘Inside Technology’, now counting almost 90 titles. Only 4 weeks before his death, Trevor wrote his last emails as editor of this series.2

After his postdoc at Twente University, Trevor became lecturer in sociology at the University of York. His interest in economic questions was spurred by the collaboration on the Health and Efficiency book with Malcolm Ashmore and Michael Mulkay (Ashmore, Mulkay, and Pinch 1989). Later, in 2008, he followed this interest in developing an economic sociology cum STS perspective in his collaboration with Richard Svedberg (Pinch and Svedberg 2008). In 1990, Trevor moved to Cornell University, where he joined Sheila Jasanoff and helped to create the Department of Science and Technology Studies. Trevor became a full professor in 1994. He served as chair of that Department for eight years. Among his many contributions to STS in those and the following years was the widely cited volume How Users Matter: The Co-construction of Users and Technology, co-edited with Nelly Oudshoorn (Oudshoorn and Pinch 2003). 

Trevor’s pioneering role in sound studies resulted from his combined love for building a synthesizer, playing it and doing science and technology studies. His first presentations about music and technology focused on the early days of the synthesizer and culminated in the wonderfully written Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog synthesizer (Pinch and Trocco 2002). Some of his earlier interests, like that in markets, returned in his examination of the sales techniques—and the boundary shifting between the world of engineering and music involved—that Bob Moog used to pitch his synthesizers as musical instruments to wide audiences. Yet Trevor also showed how the synthesizer’s sound tuned in with the psychedelic technologies of light shows and drugs in the spirit of the 1960s. Analog Days became a Harvard UP bestseller. Yet what Trevor seemed to appreciate most in the success of the book was how it brought him new contacts in the music world that otherwise would probably not have been available to him. 

While finalizing Analog Days, Trevor began preparing the special issue “Sound Studies” for Social Studies of Science with Karin Bijsterveld, arguing that the dramatic socio-technical shifts in the production and consumption of music since the 1950s, and the emerging reflection on how machines, soundscapes and listening practices intersected, made sound and listening matter for STS (Bijsterveld and Pinch 2004). Ever since, sound definitely mattered to him, leading up to the publication of the Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, again with Karin (Pinch and Bijsterveld 2012). It was very “Trevorish” that he was only prepared to accept the invitation for that Handbook if the book would be allowed to be more than just stocktaking. After all, Trevor always kept reading the newest ‘stuff.’ Instead of summarizing existing sound studies’ work, he aimed at making a volume that would show the newest directions in the field. To him, unsurprisingly perhaps, many of these new directions closely aligned with science and technology studies. 

Trevor Pinch was a prolific writer, authoring and editing 16 books and more than 80 scholarly articles, to which we can do no full justice here. He has been visiting professor to more than 10 universities, from Denmark to Korea and including Maastricht. He has also fulfilled all possible roles of intellectual leadership in the international scientific community. On top of doing his work for the MIT series, he acted as one of the co-editors of the first edition of the STS Handbook (Jasanoff et al. 1995), and served as 4S president (2012-2013).

He genuinely loved teaching. No matter how many prizes and distinctions he was awarded—such as that of honorary doctor at Maastricht University (2013) or the 4S John Desmond Bernal Prize for distinguished contributions to the social studies of science (2018)—he never turned into the type of senior that has ‘been there, done that.’ In 1992, Trevor returned from a conference in Germany and excitedly reported that someone had come up to him to inquire whether “this paper is from your PhD project? When will you be finished?” — for Trevor, no bigger compliment for his research than being compared with a young PhD student. He remained curious to hear which new topics students examined, which technologies they used, and which musical subcultures they co-constructed. In that sense, he kept surrounding himself with the social life that constituted science, technology and sound—and he kept teaching about this until well into the Fall of 2021. 

Trevor Pinch is survived by his longtime partner, Christine Leuenberger, senior lecturer in STS, and his daughters, Benika and Annika. 




1 For more details about Trevor’s work in Bath, see Collins (Collins 2022)

 2 For more details about the workshop, the first edited volume and the book series, see the introductions to the anniversary edition (Bijker, Hughes, and Pinch 2012 [1987]).




Ashmore, Malcolm, Michael Mulkay, and Trevor Pinch. 1989. Health and Efficiency. A Sociology of Health Economics. Milton Keynes/Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Bijker, Wiebe E., Thomas P. Hughes, and T. J. Pinch, eds. 2012 [1987]. The Social Construction of Technological Systems : New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology. Anniversary ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Bijsterveld, Karin, and Trevor Pinch. 2004. “Sound Studies: New Technologies and Music (special issue).”  Social  Studies of Science 34 (5):635-817.

Clark, Colin, and Trevor Pinch. 1995. The Hard Sell. The Language and Lessons of Street-wise Marketing. London: Harper Collins.

Collins, H.M., and T.J. Pinch. 1982. Frames of Meaning. The Social Construction of Extraordinary Science. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Collins, H.M., and T.J. Pinch. 1993 (1998). The Golem: What Everyone Should Know About Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Reprint, 2nd.

Collins, H.M., and T.J. Pinch. 2005. Dr. Golem : how to think about medicine. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Collins, Harry. 2022. “In memoriam Trevor Pinch (1 January 1952–16 December 2021).”  Social Studies of Science 52 (1):144-146.

Collins, Harry, and Trevor Pinch. 1998. The golem at large: what you should know about technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jasanoff, Sheila, Gerald E. Markle, James C. Petersen, and Trevor Pinch, eds. 1995. Handbook of science and technology studies. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Oudshoorn, Nelly, and T. J. Pinch. 2003. How users matter: the co-construction of users and technologies, Inside technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Pinch, T. J., and Frank Trocco. 2002. Analog days : the invention and impact of the Moog synthesizer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Pinch, Trevor. 1986. Confronting Nature. Dordrecht: Reidel.

Pinch, Trevor, and Karin Bijsterveld, eds. 2012. The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pinch, Trevor J., and Wiebe E. Bijker. 1984. “The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts: or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology might Benefit Each Other.”  Social Studies of Science 14 (3):399-441.

Pinch, Trevor, and Richard Svedberg, eds. 2008. Living in a Material World. Economic Sociology Meets Science and Technology Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.