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The Factory of Life

'The Factory of Life' is one of the four themed strands of the Oral History of British Science project, an initiative of National Life Stories and the British Library in association with the Science Museum.

Repeated pattern of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes


Repeated pattern of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes
Image courtesy of Science Museum/SSPL

'The Factory of Life' will investigate the transformations that have typified biomedicine, paying special attention to how new technologies have changed medical practices and provided a new understanding of biological objects. The application of new technologies in diagnosis will be explored in detail.

The term factory also refers to the ‘industrialisation' of the processes of treatment and cure, as well as the idea that these processes can be engineered. Advances in genetic engineering will be central to this study, especially in relation to the rise of ‘big Pharma’. 

Advances in the traditional pharmaceutical industry (from painkillers to Viagra), paving the way to new drugs and treatments, will also be investigated. This project sub-theme will elucidate the ways in which biomedicine has developed in the 20th century at the crossroads between the need for new therapeutic treatments and the pressure of the biomedical market.

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