Historical Records of Australian Science Historical Records of Australian Science Society
The history of science, pure and applied, in Australia, New Zealand and the southwest Pacific

‘Laudably Communicating to the World’: Science in Sydney’s Public Culture, 1788–1821

Lindy A. Orthia

Historical Records of Australian Science 27(1) 1 - 12
Published: 16 May 2016


It has long been held that the general population of the British colony of New South Wales before the 1820s was neither exposed to nor interested in science, and that there was little home-grown science in Sydney at this time. This prevailing view, however, is based on a definition of science as institutionalized knowledge producer. In this paper I examine the Sydney colony between 1788 and 1821 through the lens of recent historiographical developments that have redefined science as a form of communicative action, and that incorporate the study of popular discourse centrally within histories of science. Under this approach, an examination of Sydney's mass media and popular culture reveals a widespread, rich and invested fascination with science among the colony's general population, and active contributions to public science discourse by ordinary colony residents.


© Australian Academy of Science 2016

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