Science for All: The Popularization of Science in Early Twentieth-Century Britain

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University of Chicago Press, Oct 15, 2009 - Science - 352 pages

Recent scholarship has revealed that pioneering Victorian scientists endeavored through voluminous writing to raise public interest in science and its implications. But it has generally been assumed that once science became a profession around the turn of the century, this new generation of scientists turned its collective back on public outreach. Science for All debunks this apocryphal notion.

Peter J. Bowler surveys the books, serial works, magazines, and newspapers published between 1900 and the outbreak of World War II to show that practicing scientists were very active in writing about their work for a general readership. Science for All argues that the social environment of early twentieth-century Britain created a substantial market for science books and magazines aimed at those who had benefited from better secondary education but could not access higher learning. Scientists found it easy and profitable to write for this audience, Bowler reveals, and because their work was seen as educational, they faced no hostility from their peers. But when admission to colleges and universities became more accessible in the 1960s, this market diminished and professional scientists began to lose interest in writing at the nonspecialist level.

Eagerly anticipated by scholars of scientific engagement throughout the ages, Science for All sheds light on our own era and the continuing tension between science and public understanding.


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About the author (2009)

Peter J. Bowler is professor of the history of science at Queen's University Belfast and coauthor of Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey and author of Life’s Splendid Drama: Evolutionary Biology and the Reconstruction of Life’s Ancestry, 1860–1940 and Reconciling Science and Religion: The Debate in Early-Twentieth-Century Britain, all published by the University of Chicago Press.

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