One of the most interesting aspects of late-nineteenth-century France was the extraordinary interest the public expressed in science. Its adulation of Pasteur was only one of the many manifestations of this interest. It was also expressed in the widespread popularity of scientists as public figures and in the increasing public and private financial support of science. While popularity of science was created in the general public by fiction and by the various international ‘world fairs’ held in Paris, it was strongest and most important in the middle classes.
This paper examines one of the key methods used to stimulate bourgeois interest in science in France during the Second Empire and early Third Republic (1852–1895): the campaign to create ascience vulgarisée, a popularized science. While a number of different approaches used by these popularizers are examined, the article concentrates on the ‘science writings’ of Jules Michelet and Jules Verne, both of whom were immensely successful in creating a favorable climate of opinion for French science. The article concludes by suggesting how such an approach could be modernized and utilized in order to create greater scientific literacy and a similar acceptance by the public today.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
ChesneauxJ.: 1969, ‘Jules Verne's Image of the United States’,Yale French Studies 43, 111–127.
ClarkeI. F.: 1979,The Pattern of Expectation. 1644–2001, Basic Books, New York
ConantJ. B.: 1951,On Understanding Science: An Historical Approach, Mentor, New York (Originally published in 1947).
DumontJ.-M.: 1965,Les Maîtres graveurs populaires, 1800–1850, Imagerie Pellerin, Paris.
DunbarG.: 1978,Elisée Reclus: Historian of Nature, Archon, Hamden, Connecticut.
EvansA. B.: 1988,Jules Verne Rediscovered: Didacticism and the Scientific Novel, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut.
FiguierL.: 1882,Le Théatre scientifique (2nd ed.), Dentu, Paris.
FoxR.: 1980, ‘TheSavant Confronts His Peers: Scientific Societies in France, 1815–1914’, in FoxR. and WeiszG. (eds.),The Organization of Science and Technology in France. 1808–1914, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Great Britain, pp. 241–282.
GreenbergD.: 1990, ‘Energy, Power, and Perceptions of Social Change in the Early Nineteenth Century’,American Historical Review 95(3), 693–714.
GreenhalghP.: 1988,Ephemeral Vistas: The ‘Expositions Universelles’, Great Exhibitions and World's Fairs. 1851–1939, Manchester University Press, Manchester, Great Britain.
HendrickR.: 1991, ‘Biology, History, and Louis Pasteur’,The American Biology Teacher 53(8), 467–478.
HetzelP.-J. and GrandvilleJ. J.: 1977,Public and Private Life of Animals, Paddington, London. (A reprint of an English translation made in 1877; orginally published in 1842.)
HussR.: 1986, ‘Michelet and the Uses of Natural Reference’, in JordanovaL. J. (ed.),Languages of Nature: Critical Essays on Science and Literature, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, pp. 289–321.
KanipeE. S.: 1969, ‘Hetzel and the Bibliothèque d'Education et de Récréation’,Yale French Studies 43, 73–84.
LevinM.: 1989,When the Eiffel Tower Was New: French Visions of Progress at the Centennial of the Revolution, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Holyoke, Massachusetts.
MicheletJ.: 1856,L'Oiseau (2nd ed.), Hachette, Paris.
MicheletJ.: 1858,L'Insecte, Hachette, Paris.
Michelet, J.: n.d.,La Mer, Calmann-Lévy, Paris.
MicheletJ.: 1886,The Mountain (no translator given), Nelson and Sons, London.
ParménieA. and de laChapelleC. B.: 1953,Histoire d'un éditeur et ses auteurs: P.-J. Hetzel, Albin Michel, Paris.
PerroutR.: 1919,Les Images d'Epinal, Libraire Paul Ollendorff, Paris.
PughA. R.: 1923,Michelet and His Ideas on Social Reform, Columbia University Press, New York.
‘Quantum Physics 1 From the Winner of a Nobel Prize’: 1990, April 15,New York Times, pp. A31–A32.
RutherfordF. J. and AhlgrenA.: 1990,Science for All Americans, Oxford University Press, New York. (Originally published asScience for All Americans: A Project 2061 Report on Literacy Goals in Science, Mathematics and Technology, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC, 1989.)
Sheets-Pyenson, S.: 1976,Low Scientific Culture in London and Paris, 1820–1875, dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.
Sheets-PyensonS.: 1985, ‘Popular Science Periodicals in Paris and London: The Emergence of a Low Scientific Culture, 1820–1875’,Annals of Science 42, 549–572.
The Liberal Art of Science: Agenda for Action: 1990, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC.
Van derElstR.: 1914,Michelet naturaliste: Esquisse de son systeme de philosophie, Delagrave, Paris.
Verne, J.: 1931,From the Earth to the Moon (No translator given), inThe Omnibus Jules Verne, Lippincott, Philadelphia (Originally published in 1865).
Verne, J.: 1931,Round the Moon (No translator given), inThe Omnibus Jules Verne, Lippincott, Philadelphia (Originally published in 1870).
VerneJ.: 1976,Sens dessus dessous, Glénat, Paris (Originally published in 1889; published in English asTopsy-Turvy).
VerneJ.: 1965,The Hunt for the Meteor (No translator given), Ace Books, New York (Originally published in 1908).
Verne, J.: n.d.,The Mysterious Island (No translator given), Burt, New York (Originally published in 1874).
VerneJ.: 1963,20 000 Leagues Under the Sea (No translator given), Airmont, New York (Originally published in 1870).
ZeldinT.: 1980,France. 1848–1945: Taste and Corruption, Oxford University Press, Oxford, Great Britain.
About this article
Cite this article
Hendrick, R.M. The role of history in teaching science — A case study. Sci Educ 1, 145–162 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00572836
- Financial Support
- Teaching Science
- General Public
- Scientific Literacy
- Middle Class