Interpreting science: JG Crowther and the making of interwar British culture

Hill-Andrews, Oliver (2016) Interpreting science: JG Crowther and the making of interwar British culture. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the place of science in interwar British culture, and challenges central narratives about the shape of interwar British science. Informed by histories of the nineteenth century that critique a process of professionalization and popularization, I argue that characteristics of nineteenth century science persisted much longer than is commonly assumed. In particular, I show that the boundaries of the scientific community were still quite fluid, that interpreting science for a broad audience was crucial for the making of science (both in the public sphere and in the scientific community, at a time of specialization), and that there were attempts to overcome a supposed divide between the sciences and the arts (in cultural productions and personal relations).
These arguments are made through an examination of the life and work of J.G. Crowther (1899-1983). Crowther’s life has not yet received extended treatment from historians, but this neglect belies his contemporary importance. Drawing on his extensive archive (and those of his peers) and reviews, I advance the notion of Crowther as a ‘man in the middle’ – he was someone who mediated between practising scientists and the public and between practising scientists of different specializations, positioned himself at the centre of the two cultures, and often found himself in the middle ground politically. As such, he exemplifies the state of the pre-Big Science culture of interwar Britain.
Conceptually, I develop the term ‘interpreter’ to refer to Crowther’s role: this term overcomes many of the pitfalls of ‘popularizer’, and shows Crowther in an active role, shaping and re-shaping the meanings of science in the public sphere for his own political and professional ends. It is hoped that, by thinking in terms of ‘interpretation’, historians will be able to develop more sophisticated understandings of the place of science in twentieth century British culture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CT Biography > CT3200 Biography. By subject
D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2016 11:45
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2018 12:31
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/61526

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