is a sociologist, philosopher and historian of science at the University of Exeter
The University of Exeter is a public university in South West England. It belongs to the 1994 Group, an association of 19 of the United Kingdom's smaller research-intensive universities....
. He was a professor of sociology and a director of science and technology studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a large public research-intensive university in the state of Illinois, United States. It is the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system...
until 2007. He holds a doctorate in physics from the University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...
, and a doctorate in Science Studies from the University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...
. His book Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics
is a classic in the field of the sociology of science.
In elucidating some of the sociological factors prevailing in particle physics, Pickering also wrote a number of papers for journals and conferences. According to Pickering, theory and experiment come in packages, and traditions of experiment generate just the kind of data which will fuel further theorising, while traditions of theory generate new problems for further development.
Pickering thus described two theoretical frameworks in particle physics: 'old physics' - which at the time of its death, was "still alive" - dominated high energy physics through the 1960s and into the early 1970s, and concerned itself with 'common [particle physics] phenomena'. 'New physics' refers to the theory and experiment 'package' concerned with rare phenomena, such as the search for quarks. While each theoretical framework had little to say about the other, and "was useless in the phenomenal world of its rival", each was satisfactory in its own terms. Despite this, Pickering also outlined a process of "magical transmutation", where new theories are produced from old, by what he called "analogical recycling". Pickering noted that all this is symptomatic of Kuhnian type revolutions
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions , by Thomas Kuhn, is an analysis of the history of science. Its publication was a landmark event in the history, philosophy, and sociology of scientific knowledge and it triggered an ongoing worldwide assessment and reaction in — and beyond — those scholarly...
He authored The mangle of practice: Time, agency and science
(University of Chicago Press, 1995), where he develops a performative conception of scientific practice, focusing on non-human agency and strongly contributing to the posthumanist trend of Science and Technology Studies. His most recent book, The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future
traces the history of British Cybernetics after the Second World War. Pickering considers Cybernetics
Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to information theory, control theory and systems theory, at least in its first-order form...
as a type of nomad science that, instead of seeking to dominate reality as its modern counterpart (thus leading to processes of enframing, following Heidegger) rather develops an ontological theatre between humans and non-humans. In this book, Pickering explores projects that intertwine, for instance, technology, psychiatry, spirituality, education and, of course, brain sciences.
- The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future. University of Chicago Press, 2010.
- The Mangle in Practice: Science, Society and Becoming (Editor with Keith Guzik), Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008
- The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency and Science. University of Chicago Press, 1995.
- Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1984.
- "Elementary Particles: Discovered or Constructed?" in: W. P. Trower and G. Bellini (eds) Physics in Collision: High-Energy ee/ep/pp Interactions, pp. 439–48. New York and London: Plenum, 1982.
- "Interests and Analogies," in: S. B. Barnes and D. O. Edge (eds.) Science in Context: Readings in the Sociology of Science, pp. 125–46. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1982.
- "Exemplars and Analogies: A Comment on Crane's Study of Kuhnian Paradigms in High-Energy Physics" and "Reply to Crane," Social Studies of Science, Vol. 10 (1980), 497-502, 507-8.