From the 1950s to the digital age, Americans have pushed their childrento live science-minded lives, cementing scientific discovery and youthfulcuriosity as inseparable ideals. In this multifaceted work, historian RebeccaOnion examines the rise of informal children's science education in thetwentieth century, from the proliferation of home chemistry sets after WorldWar I to the century-long boom in child-centred science museums. Onionlooks at how the United States has increasingly focused its energies over thelast century into producing young scientists outside of the classroom. Sheshows that although Americans profess to believe that success in the sciencesis synymous with good citizenship, this idea is deeply complicated inan era when scientific data is hotly contested and many Americans have aconflicted view of science itself. These contradictions, Onion explains, can be understood by examiningconnections between the histories of popular science and the developmentof ideas about American childhood. She shows how the idealised concept of science has moved through the public consciousness and how the drive tomake child scientists has deeply influenced American culture.
Rebecca Onion is a visiting scholar of history at Ohio University and staff writer at Slate.com.