Science and the press: nascent institutions in colonial America

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Virginia Tech

This thesis explores the dissemination and development of science in colonial America. Specifically, I examine a general periodical (or newspaper), the Pennsylvania Gazette, in the years 1729 - 1755 for articles on natural philosophy, naturalism, technics, medicine, and husbandry, among others. I approach several concerns: the role of the Gazette in the 'popularization' and accessibility of science, the image of natural philosophy that was promoted in the Gazette, how the Gazette served the interests of the public and of those doing science, and how this history influenced science and the press.

Public acceptance of scientific method and results made the newspaper critical for a developing colonial American science tied to commercial interests. The image of science presented utilized rationality, empiricism, commercial viability, and opposition to superstition. The Gazette sought a reading public which embodied this epistemology. And to attract an audience, it made science entertaining and meaningful.

Yet I little effort went into making science directly accessible through the Gazette. The style of science in the paper remained top down I necessitating expertise, time, and resources for any in the public interested in doing science. No theory and little in the way of explanations could be found in its pages, only what might be termed 'matters of fact' and advertisements for the lectures, texts, and products of science. Those doing science used al ternati ve venues for communicating. Thus, science in the press followed market and governmental forms with a structure of specialization and representation which I term "republican science." I conclude by noting that this form of public science continues in today's newspapers.

newspaper, science, Franklin, colonial, Pennsylvania Gazette, popularization