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Reflections on Popular Science in Britain: Genres, Categories, and Historians

Ralph O'Connor
Isis
Vol. 100, No. 2 (June 2009), pp. 333-345
DOI: 10.1086/599549
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/599549
Page Count: 13
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Reflections on Popular Science in Britain: Genres, Categories, and Historians
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Abstract

ABSTRACT This essay surveys the historiography of popular science in Britain since 1994 and suggests two further ways in which the history of popular science might be reintegrated with larger narratives and concerns. First, it suggests that a closer and more systematic engagement with literary history, especially in relation to genre, has the potential to transform our understanding of science as a set of communicative practices. Second, it analyzes current historians' usage of the categories “popular science” and “science popularization” and argues against the view that these categories should be expunged from our vocabulary (except as actors' categories). Handled correctly, these “umbrella‐labels” can function as vital tools of communication with other disciplines and wider constituencies, as well as within our own field.

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