Public Attention to Science 1820–2010 – A ‘Longue Durée’ Picture

  • Martin W. Bauer
Part of the Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook book series (SOSC, volume 28)


Quantitative evidence from a number of historical and more recent sources indicate that the amount of science news in the mass media is not a constant; science news comes in irregular waves. The chapter constructs a continuous time-series index of expansion and of contraction between 1820 and 2010, locates the ‘high’ and ‘low’ years of news coverage, presents these as an indicator of fluctuating public attention to science that is corroborated by period studies. Six competing hypotheses are examined to explain the coming and going of public attention, of which the paradox of public communication of science, i.e. the re-enchantment of a disenchanted world, is the most promising one. The ‘longue duree’ picture, recovering nearly 200 years, shows that the recent expansion of science news making since the 1980s is historically unprecedented, and the chronology of ups and downs in public attention could constitute the spine of a historical narrative of the public understanding of science that still needs to be weaved into text.


Nineteenth Century Public Sphere Science Reportage Public Attention Popular Science 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.London School of Economics

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