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Trevor Pinch receives 2018 J.D. Bernal Prize

By: Linda B. Glaser,  A&S Communications
Tue, 02/20/2018

Trevor Pinch, Goldwin Smith Professor of Science & Technology Studies, has been awarded the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) 2018 John Desmond Bernal Prize, a lifetime achievement award for his “distinguished contribution” to the field of science and technology studies (STS).

“Trevor is one of the founders of our field, and one of the most versatile scholars in it,” said Bruce Lewenstein, professor and chair of STS and professor of communication. “Often working with colleagues and students both at Cornell and elsewhere, he’s shown how users of technologies like automobiles and music synthesizers shape those technologies to their own purposes – such as turning early automobiles into power-generators for farmers. He’s also been an institutional leader, serving for many years as our department chair, not to mention being an advisor to STS programs across Asia and Europe.”

The prize committee noted that Pinch’s work with Wiebe Bijker (Maastricht University) and Ronald Kline, Cornell’s Bovay Professor of History and Ethics of Professional Engineering, on the social construction of technology (SCOT) model has shaped scholarship on the culture of materiality for more than three decades. They also pointed to the willingness of academic presses to publish books on topics related to technology and society being due in part to the remarkable success of MIT Press’s Inside Technology series, which Pinch co-founded with Bijker and Bernie Carlson. “Their steady stewardship of this series, and their support for emerging scholars, has made an enormous contribution to the vitality of the field of STS,” wrote the committee.

The prize committee also cited Pinch’s co-editorship of the 1994 STS Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, as well as his service as 4S President from 2012-2013. “Those who have had the privilege of being his colleagues and his students know of his generosity in terms of time commitment, his openness to new ideas, and his willingness to always provide emotional support,” the committee wrote.

Pinch's main research centers on the sociology of technology and how users engage with technology; sound studies and music, and the development of musical instruments and sound objects; and markets and the economy, with specific attention to the study of selling and persuasion. His books include “Analog Days: the invention and impact of the Moog synthesizer,” co-written with Frank Trocco, and most recently a book of interviews on the foundations of the STS field and Sound Studies Entanglements: “Conversations on the Human Traces of Science, Technology and Sound,” with Simone Tosini. His co-edited books include “The Social Construction of Technological Systems: new directions in the sociology and history of technology,” a founding text in the STS field; and “The Golem: what you should know about science,” which has been translated into 11 languages and is now in its 6th edition.

In his acceptance, Pinch explained that his shift to researching technology and sound “followed from the inspiration that if we could change the fundamental understanding of science we could change anything.” He added that “I have been lucky in that what I found natural to work upon has also been a source of joy.”

The J.D. Bernal Prize is given annually and was named for J.D. Bernal, father of the late Cornell professor Martin Bernal.