Border Trading: The Amateur-Professional Partnership In Variable Star Astronomy
Modern science studies scholarship has emphasized the fluidity of the boundaries of science, and the interplay between society, politics, and the laboratory. Bruno Latour takes this one step further, describing how the scientific laboratory recreates itself in the larger world, turning ordinary French farms into controlled environments where Pasteur's microbes can be both demonstrated and eradicated.1 At the same time, Peter Galison has emphasized the complex social structure within the scientific community: in physics, the separate traditions of theory, experiment, and instrumentation may proceed on quasiindependent trajectories, but are nonetheless inextricably bound by constant scientific exchange in the “trading zones” at their boundaries.2 My approach combines a little of each perspective. In what follows, I explore the dynamics of a trading zone that flourishes not within the traditional laboratory, but rather at the boundary between the laboratory and its larger world extension. In astronomy, the partnership of amateurs and professionals in conducting variable star research has been an
institutionalized form of exchange for most of this century. Taking a partly historical, partly sociological view, I analyze first the participants and then the mechanics of the exchange, focusing primarily on examples based in North America.