Science for the Public: Popular Science in Wilhelmine Germany, 1870-1900

Thumbnail Image




Heyland, Katherine

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


University of Guelph


This thesis is an investigation of the complex interaction between scientists and laypeople on questions of scientific authority and the co-construction of roles for both groups in the scientific enterprise of Wilhelmine Germany (1870-1913). To investigate questions of scientific authority and the growing role of laypeople in constructing scientific knowledge, I have examined the popular science writings of bacteriologist Robert Koch (1843-1910) and popular fiction author Julius Stinde (1841-1905) in the popular periodicals Schorers Familienblatt, Daheim and Über Land und Meer. The new mass media that developed during the latter half of the nineteenth century came to stand at the interface of public interests that concerned the wider German population and the private interests of the German household. Taken together, these chapters will show that professional scientists, newly emergent popularizers of science and popular, medical and international presses all had a role to play in establishing what constitutes the modern notion of popular science. Along with an active middle class, the popular periodicals helped to build a culture of scientific literacy in Germany at the turn of the twentieth century. In the pages of the popular periodicals examined in this thesis, scientific literacy became an important tool in the construction of a middle-class German identity, and ultimately, in the construction of the German nation itself.



Wilhelmine Germany 1870-1913, Science, Scientific authority, Laypeople, Popular science