This work offers a wide-ranging examination of how scientists have been portrayed in American culture. From the earliest depictions of Benjamin Franklin and his kite experiment to twenty-first-century renderings of mad scientists, representations of American scientists in the popular media reveal much about our cultural hopes and fears. In an entertaining and insightful survey of popular media over three hundred years of American history - religious tracts, political cartoons, literature, theater, advertising, art, comic books, radio, music, television, and film - Glen Scott Allen examines the stereotypes assigned to scientists for what they tell us about America's pride in its techlogical achievements as well as our prejudices about certain 'suspect' kinds of scientific investigation. Working in the tradition of cultural studies, Allen offers an analysis that is historically comprehensive and critically specific. Integrating both 'high' literature and 'low' comedy, he delves into the assumptions about scientists - good, bad, and mad - that have been shaped by and have in turn shaped American cultural forces. Throughout the book, his focus is on why certain kinds of scientists have been lionized as American heroes, while others have been demonized as anti-American villains. Allen demonstrates that there is a continuous thread running from the seminal mad scientists of Hawthorne's eighteenth-century fiction to modern megalomaniacs like Dr. Strangelove; that marketing was as important to the reputation of the great independent inventors as techlogical prowess was; and, that cultural prejudices which can be traced all the way back to Puritan ideology are at work in modern scientific controversies over cloning and evolution. The periods and movements examined are remarkably far-ranging: the literature and philosophy of the Romantics; the techlogy fairs and utopian fiction of the nineteenth century; political movements of the 1930s and 1940s; the science fiction boom of the 1950s; the space and arms races of the 1960s and 1970s; and, the resurgence of pseudosciences in the 1980s and 1990s. This book will be of interest t just to teachers and students of cultural studies and the history of science and techlogy but to anyone interested in American culture and how it shapes our experience and defines our horizons.
GLEN SCOTT ALLEN co-developed and directed the Cultural Studies Program at Towson University.