Annals of Science 73 (1):89-107 (2016)

ABSTRACTAnalysing the contents of magazines published with the stated intention of conveying information about science and technology to the public provides a mechanism for evaluation what counted as ‘popular science’. This article presents numerical surveys of the contents of three magazines published in inter-war Britain and offers an evaluation of the results. The problem of defining relevant topic-categories is addressed, both direct and indirect strategies being employed to ensure that the topics correspond to what the editors and publishers took to be the principal areas of science and technology of interest to their readers. Analysis of the results of the surveys reveals different editorial policies depending on the backgrounds of the publishers and their anticipated readerships. The strong focus of the two most populist magazines on applied science and ‘hobbyist’ topics such as natural history, radio and motoring is noted and contrasted with the very limited coverage of theoretical science. In conclusion, a survey of changes in the contents over the periods of publication is used to identify trends in the coverage of science during this period.
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DOI 10.1080/00033790.2015.1061236
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