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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New Perspective on Scopes Trial (With Photos!)

Historian Marcel Chotkowski LaFollete takes a new look at the Scopes trial—and the role the Science Service played in it— with her book Reframing Scopes. Today, the Science Service is known and revered as the Society for Science & the Public, but back in 1925, it was a young nonprofit, which played a significant role in shaping the trial. According to Science News (published by the group), the Science Service Executive Committee gave reporters 1,000 dollars to cover the trial and supported the defense of John Scopes. Two pioneering science journalists in particular, Watson Davis and Frank Thone, the senior biology editor of the service's newsletters, became liaisons between the defense lawyers and the scientific community, helping to find scientists to comment and testify during the trial and even living among the defense team.
The book takes readers inside the trial from the perspective of these journalists, based on records, the reporters notes and letters, and never-before-seen photographs that LaFollette uncovered at the Smithsonian Institution Archive. "All day and far into the night," Thone reportedly wrote, "the rumble of scientific discussion and laughter issues forth from the Defense mansion, that pleasant old house ... that has become the headquarters for the discussion of science, religion, and freedom."Heather Wax