Making Science Our Own: Public Images of Science, 1910-1955

Marcel C. LaFollette, Author
Marcel C. LaFollette, Author University of Chicago Press $54 (312p) ISBN 978-0-226-46778-8
Reviewed on: 12/01/1990
Release date: 12/01/1990
In an effort to understand how the public's conceptions of science are formed, the author, a former editor of the journal Science, Technology, and Human Values , explores the portrayal of science in 11 general-interest magazines (such as the Saturday Evening Post ) during the period of their greatest popularity. According to LaFollette's convincing study, laypeople, who early in the century lauded scientific research as part of the American drive for progress, became increasingly skeptical by the 1940s and '50s. She uncovers stereotypes in the literature, among them: scientist as magician/ wizard, creator/destroyer and modern hero. Not surprisingly, most scientists depicted here are white and male. Magazine accounts of research methods--even those written by scientists--were oversimplified and ``uniformly inaccurate,'' and failed to distinguish between technology and pure science. Bringing her conclusions to the present, LaFollette finds that the media devote scant attention to the broader social implications of science and that, given the importance of such issues as the environment and AIDS, clearer, more complete coverage would benefit scientists and the general public alike. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Aug.)
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