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The research behind this volume began in 1977, stimulated by the growing literature on biological molecular machines. Basic results appeared in a refereed paper (Drexler, 1981). The present work began as notes for a course taught at Stanford in 1988 at the invitation of Nils Nilsson; early versions of some chapters did service as a doctoral thesis at MIT in 1991. During this long gestation, many people have contributed through discussion, criticism, and detailed review.

I thank the participants of the monthly series of nanotechnology seminars (some centered on draft chapters of this volume) organized by Ralph Merkle at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center for wide-ranging discussion and criticism. These have included Lakshmikantan Balasubramaniam, David Biegelsen, Ross Bringans, David Fork, Babur Hadimioglu, Stig Hagstrom, Conyers Herring, Tad Hogg, Warren Jackson, Noble Johnson, Martin Lim, Jim Mikkelsen, John Northrup, K. V. Ravi, Paolo Santos, Mathias Schnabel, Bob Street, Lars-Erik Swartz, Eugen Tarnower, Dean Taylor, Rob Tow, and Chris Van der Walle.

For reviews, suggestions, and specific pieces of help, I thank Jeff Bottaro, Randall Burns, Jamie Dinkelacker, Greg Fahy, Jonathan Goodman, Josh Hall, Robin Hanson, Norm Hardy, Ted Kaehler, Markus Krummenacker, Arel Lucas, Tim May, John McCarthy, Mark Samuel Miller, Chip Morningstar, Russell Parker, Marc Stiegler, Eric Dean Tribble, John Walker, and Leonard Zubkoff.

For discussion and suggestions that helped in preparing a 1989 draft paper that became Section 15.3, I thank Joe Bonaventura, Jeff Bottaro, William DeGrado, Bruce Erickson, Barbara Imperiali, Jim Lewis, Danute Nitecki, Chris Peterson, Fredric Richards, Jane Richardson, and Kevin Ulmer. For similar help in developing ideas in Section 15.4, I thank Tom Albrecht, John Foster, Paul Hansma, Jan Hoh, Ted Kaehler, Ralph Merkle, Klaus Mosbach, and Craig Prater. For sponsoring the initial 1981 publication, I thank Arthur Kantrowitz.

For remarkable efforts while this work was on its way to fulfilling the thesis requirement of an interdepartmental doctoral program hosted by the Media Arts and Sciences Section at MIT, I thank the committee’s chair, Marvin Minsky (Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Media Arts and Sciences Section), as well as committee members Alexander Rich (Department of Biology), Gerald Sussman (Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), Rick Danheiser (Department of Chemistry), and Steven Kim (Department of Mechanical Engineering), with special thanks to Steve Benton and Nicholas Negroponte (Media Arts and Sciences Section) for making the program possible in an environment hospitable to new research directions.

Ralph Merkle has helped greatly by providing steady encouragement and extensive opportunities for discussion during the writing of this volume, by reviewing it (and helping to obtain other reviews), and by collaborating on several of the design studies described. Special thanks also go to Jeffrey Soreff, whose checking of mathematical results and physical reasoning has been just barely incomplete enough for him to escape blame for the remaining errors: with his other help, this places his contribution in a class by itself. Barry Silverstein, John Walker, and the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing each provided essential support for a major portion of this work. Diane Cerra and Bob Ipsen of John Wiley & Sons made publication a pleasure. Chris Peterson, my spouse and partner, provided essential support of kinds too numerous to list.

At the other pole of involvement, the most general thanks go to members of the hundred or more audiences at universities and industrial laboratories in the U.S., Europe, and Japan who have listened to presentations of these ideas and aided in their development by intelligent questioning. I hope that this volume provides many of the answers they sought.

K. Eric Drexler
Palo Alto, July 1992


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