Chapter

Adventuring with Scientists

in Science on the Air

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780226467597
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226466958 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226466958.003.0009
Adventuring with Scientists

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In 1934, reflecting trends within radio generally, Watson Davis began to introduce more personality to the Science Service programs. The next year, “at the request of the network,” he added interviews. Three years later, CBS renamed the series Adventures in Science and initiated a format that remained unchanged for the next two decades: an opening sequence of science news bulletins and a scripted conversation with a guest. The evolution of the “Science Service Talks” into Adventures in Science reflects the trends affecting all science popularization at the time: more emphasis on exciting breakthroughs rather than patient accumulation of knowledge; increased attention to social issues; a shift of focus from the science to the scientists; and the elevation of prominent scientists to the status of cultural celebrities. The remodeling of Adventures in Science also demonstrates how popular science became entangled with the commercial business of delivering mass culture. In 1938 and 1939 Watson Davis experienced a brutal reminder of who controlled radio. All the good intentions in the world—including noble visions of bringing science to the public—were so much stardust without access to a microphone.

Keywords: Science Service; Adventures in Science; Watson Davis; science popularization; scientific breakthroughs; popular science; mass culture

Chapter.  8387 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Media Studies

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