Innocent Experiments: Childhood and the Culture of Popular Science in the United States

Innocent Experiments: Childhood and the Culture of Popular Science in the United States

by Rebecca Onion


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From the 1950s to the digital age, Americans have pushed their children to live science-minded lives, cementing scientific discovery and youthful curiosity as inseparable ideals. In this multifaceted work, historian Rebecca Onion examines the rise of informal children's science education in the twentieth century, from the proliferation of home chemistry sets after World War I to the century-long boom in child-centered science museums. Onion looks at how the United States has increasingly focused its energies over the last century into producing young scientists outside of the classroom. She shows that although Americans profess to believe that success in the sciences is synonymous with good citizenship, this idea is deeply complicated in an era when scientific data is hotly contested and many Americans have a conflicted view of science itself.

These contradictions, Onion explains, can be understood by examining the histories of popular science and the development of ideas about American childhood. She shows how the idealized concept of "science" has moved through the public consciousness and how the drive to make child scientists has deeply influenced American culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469629476
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 10/31/2016
Series: Studies in United States Culture
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Rebecca Onion is a visiting scholar of history at Ohio University and staff writer at

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From the Publisher

In this fascinating book, Rebecca Onion connects the histories of science, education, and childhood in dazzling and original ways. Innocent Experiments will change the way we think about gender and popular science.—Matthew Pratt Guterl, author of Seeing Race and coauthor of Hotel Life

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