The Scientist in Literature: Images and Stereotypes – Their Importance
Author: Haynes, Roslynn D.
Source: Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, Volume 14, Number 4, December 1989 , pp. 384-398(15)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:Recent surveys of public attitudes to science and scientists have indicated that scientists are seen in highly stereotyped forms, most of them unfavourable. Before scientists can alter their public image, it is necessary for them to understand how it has arisen. One very important way is through the literary tradition – the manner in which scientists have been presented as fictional characters from the medieval alchemists to the computer experts and physicists of contemporary literature. These depictions of the scientist have not only reflected the writers' opinions of science and contemporary scientists, but have, in turn, influenced society's image of the scientist and the public response to science. There are five major stereotypes which recur with varying frequency throughout the history of Western literature: the evil alchemist; the stupid virtuoso or projector; the unfeeling researcher; the heroic adventurer, utopian or world saviour; the helpless discoverer unable to control his discovery. This review traces the emergence of these stereotypes, suggests why they arose and examines the effect they have had on contemporary attitudes to science.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: School of English, University of New South Wales, Kensington, NSW, Australia
Publication date: 1989-12-01