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Science for All

The Popularization of Science in Early Twentieth-Century Britain

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.

See research documents referenced in the book.

352 pages | 12 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2009

History: British and Irish History, History of Technology

History of Science

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

Physical Sciences: History and Philosophy of Physical Sciences

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


A Note about Money

          Introduction: Scientists, Experts, and the Public

Part I : Topics and Themes in Popular Science

          Rival Ideologies of Science

          The Big Picture

          Practical Knowledge for All

Part II : Publishers and Their Publications

          Creating an Audience

          Bestsellers on Big Issues

          Publishers’ Series

          Encyclopedias and Serial Publications

          Popular Science Magazines

          Science for the General Public

Part III : The Authors

         Big Names

         Scientists and Other Experts

         Epilogue: The 1950s and After

Appendix: Biographical Register


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