Between the French Revolution in 1789 and the ‘Chemists’ War’ (1914-18) science became culturally and economically crucial: it seemed pervasive but difficult. David Knight explores how science was disseminated in this period, moving from a time in the late eighteenth century when science was not widely regarded as a necessary tool for investigating the world to the start of the twentieth century when it was crucial.

Asking questions, such as: did scientists have an easily-learned method? Or could the interesting parts of science be communicated in sermons, poems, pictures, lectures, museums, travel books, or journalism? Who was best at communicating it: scientists, popularisers or critics? David Knight examines the history of science to reveal that the successes and failures of our ancestors can help us understand the position science comes to occupy now.

chapter 1|12 pages


chapter 2|16 pages

God’s clockworld

chapter 3|15 pages

Holding forth

chapter 4|18 pages

Poetry, metaphor and algebra

chapter 5|14 pages

Picturing science

chapter 6|15 pages


chapter 7|15 pages


chapter 8|13 pages


chapter 9|16 pages


chapter 10|18 pages

Science gossip

chapter 11|14 pages

Suspending judgement

chapter 12|15 pages

Classical physics

chapter 13|15 pages

Promoters and popularisers