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Victorian Popularizers of Science: Designing Nature for New Audiences 1st Edition

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226481180
ISBN-10: 0226481182
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Editorial Reviews


“The book is a substantial work of scholarship rather than a casual read, and it offers much for historians of science as well as students of popular writing.”

(Jon Turney Times Higher Education Supplement 2008-03-26)

"[This] book will be the basic resource for scholars interested in understanding the background of the thousands of popular science works. . . . It includes a path-breaking recovery of the lives, interests, and limitations faced by female nature writers."
(Philip J. Pauly Science)

"A major contributions to the study of popular science in nineteenth-century Britain. . . . Lightman offers by far the fullest and most comprehensive account of the popularization of science in Britain during the second half of the nineteenth century yet to be undertaken, and his study revises our understanding of Victorian popular science in significant ways."

(Jonathan Smith American Historical Review)

"This study provides a crucial window into the science and society of Victorian England, and is an essential work for historians of that era."

"Victorian Popularizers is not just a history of science ‘from below’, although it effectively capitalizes on that literature. Rather, it is an important story of how some Victorians rebelled against the claim that only scientists should have authority over science. Lightman deftly shows how questions of authority were bound up in matters of publishing, church reform, professionalization, gender dynamics, visual spectacle and social change, and he makes substantial contributions to understanding the relationship between those matters and science. Historians interested in any of these issues will find this book enriching and thought provoking. The author’s insights into the world of Victorian science publishing offer important lessons for our own era’s continuing struggle with the question of scientific authority."

(Matthew Stanley Endeavour 2009-04-28)

"The focus on diferent groups and types of popularizers . . . proves to be very insightful. Lightman demonstrates just how different they were in terms of their agenda, their mediums, their audiences and their socioeconomic situation. His broad panorama allows for illuminating comparisons."
(Oliver Hochadel Nuncius)

"Thos interested in current popularizing by figures like Richard Dawkins will be intrigued by the parallels with our own time; those with an interest in social history will find that Lightman has done them a great service by bringing together such a large body of work in a single volume. Finally, those who simply want to read a well written book about a fascinating period in science will find Lightman's work appealing for its clarity of prose and wealth of detail."
(Tony O'Brien Metapsychology)

"[Full of] sharp and unexpected insights, and every reader will learn much from it."
(David Knight Isis)

"This book is so richly written and so definitive a study of its fascinating subject that such relatively minor reservations should not deter the readers of Science Education from perusing a volume that is destined to be a classic. They will doubrtless find much here that will be of use to twenty-first century scholars who want to understand how to reach out and take a well-motivated vision of science out to the masses."
(Graeme Gooday Science Education)

"Thorough but accessible. Scholars in the field, as well as history buffs, Anglophiles, and connoisseurs of the fine art of popular science writing, will enjoy it. It will also reward those concerned with changes in modern-day culture caused by the emergence of electronic media."
(Marilyn R.P. Morgan Technical Communication)

About the Author

Bernard Lightman is professor of humanities at York University, Toronto, editor of the journal Isis, editor of Victorian Science in Context, and coeditor of Science in the Marketplace, all published by the University of Chicago Press.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 564 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (December 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226481182
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226481180
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,636,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on April 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Professor Bernard Lightman of York University in Toronto has made a speciality over many years of focusing on the dissemination of Victorian science to the general British population. This fine study complements the earlier and quite interesting volume he co-edited with Aileen Fyfe, "Science in the Marketplace: 19th Century Sites and Experiences," which I also reviewed on Amazon. As I noted there, the process whereby scientific knowledge was disseminated to the larger society affords an interesting perspective on Victorian intellectual history, an important topic in its own right.

Lightman's focus here is the roles played, usually separately, sometimes in conjunction, of what he terms "popularizers" (i.e., not professional scientists) and university-educated and recognized scientists who conducted original research. He recounts in some detail (the book being over 500 pages long in not the largest type) how a number of the popularizers contributed to the flow of publications for the general public that was sparked by increased literacy and new mass publishing techniques. Many of these authors, especially Anglican priests, sought to discuss nature from a religious perspective; others were strictly following in the Darwin/Huxley mode of pure science. A valuable byproduct of Lightman's study is that he includes much discussion of the Victorian publishing industry which transformed the popularizers' ideas into books and articles. He also looks at the extensive lecturing conducted by the popularizers as an adjunct to their writing.

One of the most interesting chapters deals with the efforts in the later 19th century when prominent scientists, such as Huxley and Robert Ball, directed some of their attention to reaching the lay public.
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Format: Paperback
Review of Victorian popularizers of science: designing nature for new audiences.

Author: Bernard Lightman.

Publisher: Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Reviewer: Dr Bill Palmer: Associate Curtin University.

Originally online at Academici: [...]

This is a scholarly work of 502 pages with a further 43 pages of bibliography and indexes in a hardback edition. It contains about 68 black and white illustrations most of which are clear and relevant, though a few are unduly dark; the book cover is nicely coloured which might lead some to expect internal coloured plates, as part of the joy of the Victorian texts being described is their colourful illustrations, but there are none, nor is there an index of illustrations. Victorian popularizers of science was priced at a very reasonable $ 45.00.

Bernard Lightman is an experienced author in this field; he edits Isis and Victorian Science in Context and co-edits Science in the Marketplace, so Victorian popularizers of science is backed by extensive scholarship and is authoritative in the picture it presents of Victorian popularizers of science. The book consists of a preface, acknowledgements, eight chapters and a concluding chapter to summarise the conclusions (Remapping the Terrain). Who will use this book? Some readers will wish to see the whole picture of the popularization of science discussed, whilst others will wish to use it as a reference work as they follow some personal interest in one of the popularizers of science whose oeuvre is discussed in detail. The author of this review has written about some of the popularizers mentioned and has found that Lightman's focus on them as popularizers is an excellent source of additional information about them.
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