, Volume 13, Issue 1-2, pp 124-134

Biographies of scientists and public understanding of science

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Abstract

In referring to biographies of Edison as examples, the following are shown: the image of a scientist or an engineer in biographies has dramatically changed over time; the images produced anew in each period fitted well to the social milieu of the day; biographies therefore acquired a large readership and contributed to informing to the public of the value of science and technology and the necessity of promoting them. It is also pointed out that a new image of scientist or engineer is to be created which is surely attractive to people today if we expect biographies to remain effective in promoting public understanding of science as before.

A preliminary version of this paper was read in July 1997 at the International Congress of the History of Science (Liège, Belgium), and in March 1998 at the International Conference on Science, Technology and Society (Tokyo, Japan). I am grateful to those who provided helpful comments at the sessions, especially to V. V. Krishna and J. Fudano.