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United in Separation: The Inventions of Gel Filtration and the Moral Economy of Research in Swedish Biochemistry, ca. 1950–1970

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 April 2014

Sven Widmalm*
Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden E-mail:


The Uppsala school in separation science, under the leadership of Nobel laureates, The (Theodor) Svedberg and Arne Tiselius, was by all counts a half-century-long success story. Chemists at the departments for physical chemistry and biochemistry produced a number of separation techniques that were widely adopted by the scientific community and in various technological applications. Success was also commercial and separation techniques, such as gel filtration, were an important factor behind the meteoric rise of the drug company Pharmacia from the 1950s. The paper focuses on the story behind the invention of gel filtration and the product Sephadex in the 1950s and the emergence of streamlined commercially oriented separation science as a main activity at the department of biochemistry in the 1960s. The dynamics of this development is analyzed from the perspectives of moral economy and storytelling framed by the larger question of the social construction of innovation. The latter point is addressed in a brief discussion about the uses of stories like the one about Sephadex in current research policy.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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