Films that dramatize historical events and the lives of historical figures—whether they are intended to educate or to entertain—play a significant role in shaping the public's understanding of the past. In A Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists and Inventors in American Film and TV since 1930, A. Bowdoin Van Riper focuses on the dramatized portrayals of a particular group of historical figures—scientists, engineers, and inventors—that have appeared on American film and television screens. This volume analyzes individual portrayals, the public images of particular scientists and inventors, and the ideas about science and technology that, collectively, they represent.
In this first in-depth study of how historic scientists and inventors have been portrayed on screen, Van Riper catalogs nearly 300 separate performances and includes essays on the screen images of more than 80 historic scientists, inventors, engineers, and medical researchers. The individuals covered include Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Dian Fossey, and Bill Gates.
Arranged chronologically by the subject's date of birth, entries for each individual explain their major contributions to science and technology, analyze the ways in which they've been portrayed in film and on television, and conclude with a complete list of screen portrayals and a discussion of suggestions for further reading. A Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists and Inventors in American Film and TV since 1930 will be of interest to anyone concerned with the depiction of historical events and historical figures in film and television, and to anyone interested in the public understanding of science and technology.
A. Bowdoin Van Riper —
A. Bowdoin Van Riper is a historian, whose research focuses on the social and cultural dimensions of modern science and technology. He is the author or editor of five books, including Science in Popular Culture (2002) and Rockets and Missiles: The Life Story of a Technology (2007).
Van Riper, A. Bowdoin. A biographical encyclopedia of scientists and inventors in American film and TV since 1930. Scarecrow, 2011. 323p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780810881280; ISBN 9780810881297 e-book. Reviewed in 2012feb CHOICE.
Today's films and TV programs abound with fictional scientists and inventors, but presentations depicting actual people in these professions are considerably fewer in number. Although not all performances are true to the original model, the media's influence on the public perception of scientists and inventors can be significant. This phenomenon interests historian Van Riper, whose research focus includes the social and cultural dimensions of modern science and technology. For this book, he limits his examination to well-known scientists and inventors presented in US films made and distributed since 1930 and in widely broadcast TV programs. Documentaries are not included, but animated depictions of named people are. Van Riper has come up with a list of more than 80 individuals, ranging from Hippocrates and Aristotle to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. They are grouped into four periods: "Ancient through Enlightenment," "The Nineteenth Century," "The Twentieth Century to 1945," and "The Twentieth Century after 1945." A short, readable biography and evaluation of performance appearances is given for each individual, along with a short list of screen citations and list of books for further reading. While the biographies make good reference points, the introduction, which is a detailed analysis of the collected data, will be of most interest to historians of science.
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above; general readers. -- R. J. Havlik, emeritus, University of Notre Dame