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Goodell's theme is the fascinating symbiosis that exists between the media and a particularly potent group of message-bearers. Margaret Mead, Carl Sagan, B. F. Skinner, Linus Pauling, William Shockley. . . are among the personae she has interviewed. Her intent is to explain how they got to be household names and what they have contributed to politics and policy-making in science and government. She analyzes certain shared traits--credibility, color, relevance, controversialness, and articulateness. (Shockley is not articulate but he's a canny manipulator, master of the pseudo-event or press conference that gets on the AP wire.) One by one she examines the careers, contentments or disenchantments that have shaped these voices who characteristically speak out on topics removed from their field of professional competence. The public image sometimes comes at the expense of peer approval, but often the visible scientists have already achieved the kudos that give them authority in their fields. Goodell views their rise in the context of changing fashions in the public's view of science or of the scientists' view of the public. She concludes that for the most part it is good for science and the public to be exposed to the outspoken; it serves to demystify and democratize an all-too-elite group. There is considerable style, insight, and stimulation in Goodell's writing. Insiders--science writers and scientists themselves--will relish her observations and anecdotes. Outsiders--anyone interested in science, communications, politics, policy, and people--will find this a fresh and revealing reflection on science and society.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1977
Publisher: Little, Brown