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The popularisation of elementary science through popular science books c.1870-c.1939

Ring, K (1988) The popularisation of elementary science through popular science books c.1870-c.1939. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86448) (KAR id:86448)


This thesis investigates the popularisation of science in terms of the implicit images of science, and the explicit claims about science, which popularisers communicate through their exposition. In particular, it traces the fortunes of 'public science' through the popular science book from c.1870—c.1939. The introductory chapter addresses the breadth and limitations of the study, its periodisation, and also explains the choice of the popular science book as the medium for analysis. Chapter 2 explains the defining features and historical contexts of the genres used in the thesis, which have been constructed to monitor different approaches to the presentation of science through time. The thesis is then divided into three chronological periods: the late Victorian c.1870—c.1901, the Edwardian c.1901—c.1914, and the interwar c.1918—c.1939. These periods are explored in two main ways. Firstly, in chapters 3, 5, and 7, the content and style of series presenting elementary science are examined in the broad context of developments within science, society, and the publishing industry for the three periods under consideration. Secondly, the popularisation of 'public science' is analysed in terms of the personalities and the topical popularising issues of each period. Thus, chapter 4 delves into the popular writings of Victorian Scientific Naturalists, such as T.H.Huxley, J.Tyndall and J.Iiubbock and compares them with that of Christian popularisers in the late Victorian period, while chapter 6 investigates the popularisation of eugenics as public science in the Edwardian era. Finally, in chapter 8 the public science writings of members of the Social Relations of Science movement, such as H.Levy, L.Hogben, J.B.S.Haldane, and J.Huxley are studied in relation to the popularisation of A.Eddington and J.Jeans. To the bibliography at the end of the thesis is added a critical analysis of the series of books used in the study.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86448
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Literature; Science 1870-1939
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Q Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2019 11:02 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 12:07 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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