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Rethinking Big Science Modest, Mezzo, Grand Science and the Development of the Bevalac, 1971–1993

Historians of science have tended to focus exclusively on scale in investigations of large‐scale research, perhaps because it has been easy to assume that comprehending a phenomenon dubbed “Big Science” hinges on an understanding of bigness. A close look at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory’s Bevalac, a medium‐scale “mezzo science” project formed by uniting two preexisting machines—the modest SuperHILAC and the grand Bevatron—shows what can be gained by overcoming this preoccupation with bigness. The Bevalac story reveals how interconnections, connections, and disconnections ultimately led to the development of a new kind of science that transformed the landscape of large‐scale research in the United States. Important lessons in historiography also emerge: the value of framing discussions in terms of networks, the necessity of constantly expanding and refining methodology, and the importance of avoiding the rhetoric of participants and instead finding words to tell our own stories.