Scientific Americans

Scientific Americans: The Making of Popular Science and Evolution in Early-Twentieth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture

John Bruni
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qhjwx
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  • Book Info
    Scientific Americans
    Book Description:

    The book challenges narrow readings of evolution as ‘social Darwinism’ by looking at evolutionary theory through the interrelated perspectives of science, North American naturalist literature, and popular journalism.

    eISBN: 978-1-78316-018-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-10)

    Founded in 1845,Scientific Americanwas the first magazine to disseminate scientific knowledge about the world in concise, journalistic prose, gleaned from the perspectives of specialists in a variety of academic disciplines, to a ‘general’ audience.Popular Science Monthlyfollowed in 1872, seeking the readership of ‘educated laymen’ and offering in-depth articles from well-known authorities in their fields such as Herbert Spencer (in philosophy), T. H. Huxley (in biology), William James (in psychology) and John Dewey (in education). Both magazines let the reader listen into a multi-dimensional, far-ranging and provocative conversation not limited by disciplinary constraints.¹ Every article sheds light...

  6. 1 POPULAR SCIENCE, EVOLUTION AND GLOBAL INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
    (pp. 11-30)

    Published inScientific Americanin 17 October 1896, ‘The development of Africa’ recounts Henry M. Stanley MP’s thoughts about England taking the lead in establishing a new imperialistic phase: ‘Her efforts for some years after the Berlin Conference had been confined to reserving spheres of influence, rather than to violent annexation, and to moderating the passion for African land manifested by Germany, France, and Italy.’¹ The concept of ‘spheres of influence’ abstracts foreign policy; it encapsulates how nations take control of foreign markets through a sophisticated deployment of rhetorical posturing, diplomatic manoeuvring and statistical reporting. As I shall argue, popular...

  7. 2 DIRTY NATURALISM AND THE REGIME OF THERMODYNAMIC SELF-ORGANIZATION
    (pp. 31-58)

    Through the perspective of popular science journalism, evolution becomes an artistic question. In a rather astute public relations coup,Popular Science Monthly,in 1895 and 1896, featured articles by Herbert Spencer on the development of various professional institutions. Taken collectively, these articles seem to follow a similar trajectory, confirming Spencer’s view of evolution driving cultural progress. In particular, his study published in August 1895 of the development of the orator, poet, actor and dramatist legitimates what he sees as a tendency towards integration, diversification and complexity. In his vision of cultural progression, a racial hierarchy is legitimated as ‘germs’ of...

  8. 3 THE ECOLOGY OF EMPIRE
    (pp. 59-92)

    In the early twentieth century, Edward L. Thorndike wrote a number of articles forPopular Science Monthlyin which he critiqued ideas of animal intelligence, provoking responses from his readers. These responses consisted of observations of animal behaviour (for example, a reader would describe a response from his/her dog that suggested signs of intelligence), which Thorndike would then challenge by citing evidence from experiments.

    In ‘The evolution of the human intellect’, published in November 1901, he writes his most comprehensive statement of his position in the debate about animal intelligence. He argues for a biological continuity between the mental processing...

  9. 4 AFTER THE FLOOD: PERFORMANCE AND NATION
    (pp. 93-120)

    In the early twentieth century, a critical ecological issue was water purification. Published in December 1900 inPopular Science Monthly, George C. Whipple’s ‘Municipal water-works laboratories’ documents the emerging policy of biopolitical control of life (a concept which will be discussed later). Read through Whipple’s article, this policy results from the scientific comingling of modernity, nationalism and pragmatism:

    The laboratory idea is fast taking hold of our municipalities. It is the natural result of modern science and American practicality. More and more our civilization is making use of the great forces of nature, and more and more it is becoming...

  10. 5 THE MISEDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS: FANTASIES OF RACE, CITIZENSHIP AND BIOLOGICAL DYNAMOS
    (pp. 121-154)

    One aspect of popular scientific journalism that we have been exploring comes to the fore regarding thermodynamics, and the physical sciences at large: a rhetorical strategy that justifies scientific theory and practice by lining them up with daily lived experiences. W.S. Franklin’s ‘The Second Law of Thermodynamics: its basis in intuition and common sense’, published inPopular Science Monthlyin March 1910, is the forerunner of a more specialized article on entropy by the same author three months later (inThe Physical Review, June 1910), its approach from the start detailing the widespread importance of thermodynamic concepts that exceeds disciplinary...

  11. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 155-180)

    We return to the US foreign policy refraction of the dynamo: the American System. From Paul A. Bové’s perspective, Adams’s historical writing chronicles ‘ the continuity of the American System . . . from the War of 1812 to the period between the Spanish– American War of 1898 and the onset of the European war in July 1914’.¹ Threaded through our discussion of US foreign policy as a truly modern signi-fier, for Adams, is the question of whether such policy constitutes a repackaging of colonialism. That is, Hay certainly is transforming foreign policy into a growth economy underlined by what...

  12. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 181-182)

    We should take a moment to reflect on the central goal of the project: to resituate the prose narratives of Dreiser, Wharton, London and Adams within a crucial moment when evolutionary thought and a shifting picture of the world destabilized social categories of race, class, gender and citizenship. To be sure, Wolfe’s argument about biopolitics is precisely a current (and rather pressing) version of destabilization reflected by naturalist texts. Wolfe’s particular shock to the system resonates with Adams’s closed system of paranoia: for Adams’s image of society as an organism (that appears constituted through the automaticity and mechanicity of a...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 183-224)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 225-238)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 239-246)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)