In Victorian Britain an array of writers captured the excitement of new scientific discoveries, and enticed young readers and listeners into learning their secrets by converting explanations into quirky, charming, and imaginative fairy-tales; natural forces could be fairies, dinosaurs could be dragons, and looking closely at a drop of water revealed a soup of monsters.
In exploring the ways in which authors and translators – from Hans Christian Andersen and Edith Nesbit to the pseudonymous ‘A.L.O.E.’ and ‘Acheta Domestica’ – reconciled the differing demands of factual accuracy and fantastical narratives, Melanie Keene asks why the fairies and their tales were chosen as an appropriate new form for capturing and presenting scientific and technological knowledge to young audiences. Such stories, she argues, were an important way in which authors and audiences criticised, communicated, and celebrated contemporary scientific ideas, practices, and objects.Science in Wonderland explores how these stories were presented and read.
Melanie Keene is a historian of science for children, based at Homerton College, Cambridge. She has published several academic and popular articles on scientific books and objects from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, on topics from candles, pebbles, or cups of tea, to board games, toy sets, and model dinosaurs.