There are similarities between the roles of technicians across all fields from the arts and theatre to engineering and science. So, it should be possible to create one definition to cover all technicians. This piece is the hunt for that definition – it is also still a work in progress.
Science and art have always been a team effort; however, it is going to take a change in our perception of technical skill before everyone gets fully acknowledged for their contribution to that team.
Technicians are the forgotten people, the invisible members of the scientific community who almost never appear in the science text books. This is a journey through the history of science and of technicians; from pre-history right through to now.
The role and status of the science technician has followed many of the twists and turns of the history of science and society. Technicians have historically been both servants and invisible experts, not only understanding but also possessing a ‘feel’ for machine or process; translating and acting on every output, be it the reading on a dial, a sound, or a smell. In more recent years to become a technician has meant joining a profession, a vocation with training and a professional body; however, the characterisation as servant-expert is one I think many would still recognise.