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date: 15 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter probes the ways in which writers registered the new scientific ideas that made 1880‒1920 ‘one of the most turbulent and revolutionary periods of scientific discovery to date’, especially for physics. Writers like Conrad, Eliot, Wells, and Woolf were aware of and engaged with new scientific discoveries such as X-rays, while developments in areas like Brownian motion can be seen as relevant to wider cultural concerns of the period. The chapter explores writers’ contacts, formal and accidental, with new scientific ideas, and the ways in which they transformed such ideas in their own writings. Recent work by Peter Bowler and others has illuminated the role of the periodical press in feeding the wider public’s appetite for popular science. Two specific examples, the Cornhill Magazine and the New Quarterly (edited by Desmond MacCarthy) are explored, and a broader ‘interdisciplinary matrix’ to which literary writers and scientists alike contributed is considered.

Keywords: generalist periodicals, popular science, X-rays, Brownian motion, crowd psychology, Woolf, Conrad

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