York to host major conference on popular science

How did the concept of popular science develop in the 19th-century?

York will be the scene of an international conference to examine this and other questions about the roots of the modern popular science movement. International experts will gather at York’s Keele campus Aug. 2-3, to attend “Popular Science: 19th-Century Sites and Experiences”.

The conference will bring together scholars, scientists, historians, authors, curators and students to discuss issues and concepts relating to questions about the production of popular science and the experiences of its audiences. “We hope that they will consider larger questions which take us some way to understanding how the term ‘popular science’ emerged and was transformed over the century,” stated Bernie Lightman, conference co-organizer and York professor of humanities, in the conference brochure.

Left: Bernie Lightman

“We will start from the assumption that what people meant by the term ‘popular science’ changed over the century, and that, even at any one time, it carried different connotations to different social groups and to people experiencing it in different contexts,” said Lightman.

The conference is organized into three distinct time frames: The Early 19th Century from 1800 to 1830; the period of redefining popular science from 1830 to 1860; and the age that resulted in the consolidation of popular science from 1860 to 1900.

Right: Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless shortly after a visit to Victorian England

It will feature a series of presentations of academic papers that will be followed by discussions of the concepts outlined in the papers. For the full conference schedule, click here. The conference will culminate with a series of discussants on the experiences and sites of popular science.

For more information including registration, the agenda and abstracts of conference papers, visit the Popular Science: 19th-Century Sites and Experiences Web site. For Netscape users, version 7.1 and higher is recommended.

“Popular Science: 19th-Century Sites and Experiences” is sponsored by York University. Conference organizers are Aileen Fyfe and Bernie Lightman.


Left: A Victorian era illustration of a weather control “device”.