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Whatever happened to the ‘mad, bad’ scientist? Overturning the stereotype

Citation

Haynes, RD, Whatever happened to the mad, bad' scientist? Overturning the stereotype, Public Understanding of Science, 25, (1) pp. 31-44. ISSN 0963-6625 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© The Author(s) 2014

DOI: doi:10.1177/0963662514535689

Abstract

The cluster of myths relating to the pursuit of knowledge has perpetuated the archetype of the alchemist/ scientist as sinister, dangerous, possibly mad and threatening to society’s values. Shelley’s Frankenstein provided imagery and a vocabulary universally invoked in relation to scientific discoveries and technological innovation. The reasons for the longevity of this seemingly antiquated, semiotic imagery are discussed. In the twenty-first century, this stereotype has been radically revised, even overturned. Scientists are now rarely objects of fear or mockery. Mathematicians, both real-life and fictional, are discussed here as being representative of scientists now depicted empathically. This article examines possible sociological reasons for this reversal; what the revisionist image suggests about society’s changed attitudes to science; and what might be the substitute fears and sources of horror.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:alchemist, communication, environment, evil scientists, Frankenstein, ‘mad scientist’, mathematicians in fiction, myth, semiotic characters
Research Division:Language, Communication and Culture
Research Group:Communication and Media Studies
Research Field:Communication and Media Studies not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture
Author:Haynes, RD (Dr Roslynn Haynes)
ID Code:118660
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Humanities
Deposited On:2017-07-17
Last Modified:2017-11-20
Downloads:0

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