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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: May 2013

2 - Explaining the world: communicating science through the ages


The history of science communication is the story of how scientific practitioners have attempted both to educate the public and to project a positive image of themselves. They have especially sought to justify their activities in terms of what the public think to be useful or interesting.

Science as status: the Ancient Greeks

Nobody knows how the earliest Greek philosophers told the public about their ideas. Legend portrays them as disinterested sages thinking great thoughts without a care in the world. Thales of Miletus (c. 620 BC– c. 546 BC) supposedly fell down a hole because he had been looking up at the stars. But it seems likely that they valued the status that philosophy bestowed on them and actively tried to enhance it by disseminating their theories.

Selected further reading
McClellan, JamesDorn, HaroldScience and Technology in World History: An IntroductionBaltimore 2006
Lindberg, DavidThe Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to AD 1450Chicago 2008
Hannam, JamesGod's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern ScienceLondon 2009
Shapin, StevenThe Scientific RevolutionChicago 1998
Henry, JohnThe Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern ScienceLondon 2008
Hankins, ThomasScience and the EnlightenmentCambridge 1985
Knight, DavidThe Making of Modern Science: Science, Technology, Medicine and Modernity 1798–1914Cambridge 2009