Atoms in wonderland

Sophie Forgan

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Abstract

This paper examines the representation of atomic science in Britain in museums, exhibitions, and print in the period 1945-1960. Due to postwar shortages, authors and publicists initially relied more on the written text than on visual representation. Underlying much writing was the idea of the “intelligent layman,” which formed a shorthand way of conceptualizing the non-specialist reading public, and accounts for much of the approach and tone of writing. The paper then examines the constraints of presenting atomic science in the Science Museum, London, and the 1951 Festival of Britain, as well as a range of publications for the wider market. These include the official publications of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, the enthusiastic output of the Institute of Atomic Information for the Layman, as well as works such as George Gamow's Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland. The use of images from Alice in Wonderland is examined as recurring motif for presenting an optimistic view of the benign potential of atomic science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-196
JournalHistory and Technology
Volume19
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2003

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Atom
Laymen
Wonderland
Festival of Britain
Atomic Energy
Publicist
Shorthand
Museum Exhibitions
Authority
Visual Representation
Motifs
George Gamow
Science museum

Cite this

Forgan, Sophie. / Atoms in wonderland. In: History and Technology. 2003 ; Vol. 19, No. 3. pp. 177-196.
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Atoms in wonderland. / Forgan, Sophie.

In: History and Technology, Vol. 19, No. 3, 09.2003, p. 177-196.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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