1st Edition

The Silences of Science Gaps and Pauses in the Communication of Science

Edited By Felicity Mellor, Stephen Webster Copyright 2017
    318 Pages
    by Routledge

    318 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Over the last half century scholars from a range of disciplines have attempted to theorise silence. Naively we tend to think of silence negatively, as a lack, an emptiness. Yet silence studies shows that silence is more than mere absence. All speech incorporates silence, not only in the gaps between words or the pauses that facilitate turn taking, but in the omissions that result from the necessary selectivity of communicative acts. Thus silence is significant in and of itself; it is a sign that has socially-constructed (albeit context -dependent and ambiguous) meanings.

    To date, studies of science communication have focussed on what is said rather than what is not said. They have highlighted the content of communication rather than its form, and have largely ignored the gaps, pauses and lacunae that are an essential, and meaningful, part of any communicative act. Both the sociology of science and the history of science have also failed to highlight the varied functions of silence in the practice of science, despite interests in tacit knowledge and cultures of secrecy. Through a range of case studies from historical and contemporary situations, this volume draws attention to the significance of silence, its different qualities and uses, and the nature, function and meaning of silence for science and technology studies.


    Introduction: The Communicative Functions of Silence in Science

    Part 1: Choosing Silence

    1. 'He Didn't Go Round the Conference Circuit Talking About It': Oral Histories of Joseph Farman and the Ozone Hole

    2. Dawin's Silence: An Anatomy of Quietude

    3. 'Tired with this Subject...': Issac Newton on Publishing and the Ideal Natural Philosopher

    4. Engineers at the Patient's Bedside: The Case of Silence in Inter-institutional Educational Innovation

    Part 2: Cultures of Silence

    5. Talking About Secrets: The Hanford Nuclear Facility and News Reporting of Silence, 1945-1989

    6. Silence and Selection: The 'Trick' Cyclist at the War Office Selection Boards

    7. The Silenced Subject: Oral History and the Experience of Cancer Research

    8. Reconstructing Ancient Thought- The Case of Ancient Egyptian Mathematics

    9. The (non)-conveying of the Experiential in Scientific Accounts of Buddhist Meditation

    Part 3: Silences in the Public Sphere

    10. The Silent Introduction of Synthetic Dyestuffs into Nineteenth Century Food

    11. Having It All: Ownership in Open Science

    12. Shocking Silences: The Management and Distribution of Silences Around TASER™

    13. 'An Outcry of Silences': Charles Hoy Fort and the Uncanny Voices of Science


    Felicity Mellor is Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at Imperial College London, UK. Her research examines the representation of science in the media and the ideological dimensions of scientists’ public discourse. She is editor, along with Alice Bell and Sarah Davies, of Science and its Publics (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

    Stephen Webster is Director of the Science Communication Unit at Imperial College London, UK. His books include Charles Darwin (Stroud: The History Press, 2015) and Thinking about Biology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).