Science pour tous

In the 19th century, new means for spreading scientific knowledge were proliferating, from the press to conferences, from fairs to recreational books, from medical manuals to stage shows. It’s the golden age of popular science, and it is this abundance of means of access to science that this presentation aims to put on display.

années 1850

Founding of numerous popular-science magazines and journals:Cosmos (Cosmos, 1852), La science pour tous (Science for Everyone) and l’Année scientifique et industrielle(The Year in Science and Industry, 1856).


Jules Verne publishes his first novel: Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon).


The Bibliothèque des merveilles (Library of Marvels) is founded by Edouard Charton.


The journal La Nature (Nature) is founded by Gaston Tissandier.


Camille Flammarion publishes his Astronomie populaire (Popular Astronomy).


The World’s Fair in Paris, where visitors discover the Eiffel Tower.


Publication of La science amusante (Magical Experiments, or Science in Play) by Tom Tit, which will stay in print, with many new editions, until 1914.

Before 1850

Popular science didn’t appear out of nowhere in 1850. Science was already being disseminated to a public that had been growing gradually since the the 17th century.

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Disseminating Science

Scientists, journalists, novelists, publishers and charitable organizations all worked to make science accessible to everyone. Lavishly illustrated books, periodicals, museums, fairs, courses, lectures and conferences with projections: they did whatever it took to catch people’s interest!

Science Education

Learning in school or at home? Geometry, physical sciences and natural history were starting to be taught in school, but also at home thanks to manuals that made science fun and proposed interesting experiments that anyone could do.

Nature Galore

Astronomy and the natural sciences were hugely popular. People’s fascination for the stars was nurtured in books and magazines that gave advice on stargazing. Botanical and zoological observation was also encouraged, both in the garden and in illustrated books.

DIY Medicine

In the 20th century, personal hygiene began to improve, and was encouraged, as was knowledge about the body and how to take care of it. Unique to their time, colored plates that could be removed from books were very useful for that.

Ordinary and Extraordinary Journeys

On a bicycle, in the Metro, a dirigible balloon, or a moon rocket, science carries people away. The transportation revolution changed how people got around, and novelists latched onto those technological innovations to popularize them.

Technology: From the Ordinary to the Sublime

Technological developments (the telephone, photography, the cinema) enabled far more intensive communication. Electricity began to appear in private homes, but was used principally to illuminate cities during the frequent fairs that showcased new inventions.

After 1900

In the 20th century, science became more important in the school curriculum, and popularizers shifted their focus. Rather than science per se, it was technology that became the big draw.

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