Books for the News, History and Philosophy of Science

Science on Film

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The Smithsonian Institution has more than thirteen million images in some seven hundred collections throughout its network of museums, research centers, and the National Zoo. The Bigger Picture is a blog that takes a closer look at the Smithsonian’s holdings and invites readers to consider the impact of photography on our perception of history.
In a recent post, Press author Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette considered images from the Smithosian’s Flickr commons of female physicists, including Marie Sklodowska Curie, Irène Joliot-Curie, Lise Meitner, and Herta R. Leng. The fascinating discussion, which looks at the intersection of publicity and politics in the world of physics, can be found here.
Around here, LaFollete is known for her analysis of science in different media: her 2008 book Science on the Air: Popularizers and Personalities on Radio and Early Television transports readers to the early days of radio, when the new medium allowed innovative and optimistic scientists the opportunity to broadcast serious and dignified presentations over the airwaves. Lafollette chronicles the efforts of science popularizers, from 1923 until the mid-1950s, as they negotiated topic, content, and tone in order to gain precious time on the air. Offering a new perspective on the collision between science’s idealistic and elitist view of public communication and the unbending economics of broadcasting, LaFollette rewrites the history of the public reception of science in the twentieth century and the role that scientists and their institutions have played in both encouraging and inhibiting popularization. By looking at the broadcasting of the past, Science on the Air raises issues of concern to all those who seek to cultivate a scientifically literate society today.
After you are done flipping through the Smithsonian’s Flickr collection, have a look at this excerpt from Lafollette’s book.