This paper tells the history of solid-state chemistry in France from 1945 to the present. There, the chemical study of solids was carried out by a national, academic community of solid-state chemists, which went through three successive organizational regimes. It was first framed by prewar traditions, taking the form of a feudal regime of Parisian research schools until the late 1950s. As the first post-World War II generation gained power and influence, research schools tended to drop their local specificity and the same disciplinary matrix spread across the country. This disciplinary regime was made possible through the centralized administration of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS). Finally, a multiplication of practices and socializations blurred common standards in the 1980s, which shifted the community toward a cluster regime where numerous thematic groups loosely interacted under a broader umbrella influenced by materials science.
This case study investigates the institutional and epistemic structures and dynamics of a scientific community in a national context. The empirical analysis relies heavily on oral history, which affords special attention to the perceptions, discourses, and identities of the actors. The self-identification of chemists not only reflected their own beliefs but also constantly referred to their alter egos, the French solidstate physicists.