Complicating the story of popular science: John Maynard Smith’s 'Little Penguin' on The Theory of Evolution - British Library Research Repository
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Complicating the story of popular science: John Maynard Smith’s 'Little Penguin' on The Theory of Evolution

5 May 2019

Abstract

Popular science writing has received increasing interest, especially in its relation to professional science. I extend the current scholarly focus from the nineteenth to the twentieth century by providing a microhistory of the early popular writings of evolutionary biologist John Maynard Smith (1920–2004). Linking them to the state of evolutionary biology as a professional science as well as Maynard Smith’s own professional standing, I examine the interplay between author, text and audiences. In particular, I focus on Maynard Smith’s book The Theory of Evolution (Penguin 1958) and show how he used it to both promote neo-Darwinism and advocate the utility of mathematics in biology. Following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and David Lack, Maynard Smith was a science communicator blurring the lines between genres (popular, professional, textbook) and audiences (expert and non-expert) while contributing to ongoing discussions within and on the profession of evolutionary biology around the Darwin-Wallace centenary.

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