Science on American Television: A History

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University of Chicago Press, Jan 10, 2013 - Science - 304 pages
As television emerged as a major cultural and economic force, many imagined that the medium would enhance civic education for topics like science. And, indeed, television soon offered a breathtaking banquet of scientific images and ideas—both factual and fictional. Mr. Wizard performed experiments with milk bottles. Viewers watched live coverage of solar eclipses and atomic bomb blasts. Television cameras followed astronauts to the moon, Carl Sagan through the Cosmos, and Jane Goodall into the jungle. Via electrons and embryos, blood testing and blasting caps, fictional Frankensteins and chatty Nobel laureates, television opened windows onto the world of science. But what promised to be a wonderful way of presenting science to huge audiences turned out to be a disappointment, argues historian Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette in Science on American Television. LaFollette narrates the history of science on television, from the 1940s to the turn of the twenty-first century, to demonstrate how disagreements between scientists and television executives inhibited the medium’s potential to engage in meaningful science education. In addition to examining the content of shows, she also explores audience and advertiser responses, the role of news in engaging the public in science, and the making of scientific celebrities. Lively and provocative, Science on American Television establishes a new approach to grappling with the popularization of science in the television age, when the medium’s ubiquity and influence shaped how science was presented and the scientific community had increasingly less control over what appeared on the air.
 

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A scholarly history of the uneasy relationship between science and television, as science attempted to utilize the new medium for expanding public knowledge of science and how science is done. The ... Read full review

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User Review  - quantum_flapdoodle - LibraryThing

A scholarly history of the uneasy relationship between science and television, as science attempted to utilize the new medium for expanding public knowledge of science and how science is done. The ... Read full review

Contents

Chapter One Inventions and Dreams
1
Chapter Two Experimenting with Illusion
9
Chapter Three Elementary Education Basic Economics
25
Chapter Four Dramatizing Science
43
Chapter Five Taking the Audiences Pulse
59
Fictions and Facts
71
Documentaries
85
The Price of Exclusive Access
101
Children in the Audience
171
Televisions Female Scientists
185
Exclusivity and Power
197
Chapter Fifteen All Science All the Time
217
Acknowledgments
231
Notes
233
Manuscript Sources
275
Selected Bibliography
277

The Publics Television
121
Chapter Ten Defining Whats News about Science
137
Chapter Eleven Entrepreneurial Popularization
155
Illustration Credits
289
Index
291
Copyright

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About the author (2013)

Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette is an independent historian based in Washington, DC. She is the author of several books, including Science on the Air: Popularizers and Personalities on Radio and Early Television and Making Science Our Own: Public Images of Science, 1910–1955, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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