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May 2017 Vol. 54 No. 9

University of North Carolina Press

The following review appeared in the May 2017 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Science & Technology
History of Science & Technology

Onion, Rebecca. Innocent experiments: childhood and the culture of popular science in the United States. North Carolina, 2016. 226p bibl index afp ISBN 9781469629476, $85.00; ISBN 9781469629476 , $29.95; ISBN 9781469629483 ebook, $28.99.

In this terrific synthesis of places and trends in popular science over the course of the 20th century, Onion, a staff writer at, explores the intersection of America’s idealized beliefs about science and childhood. Selected examples of science education occurring outside the official education system are explored with great depth, including the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, home chemistry sets for children, the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, the rise of the science fiction genre (specifically the work of Robert A. Heinlein), and the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Through these examples, Onion interrogates the notion of “kids are little scientists” and explores how public attitudes about industry, the educational system, and America’s place in the world affected expectations of children’s participation in science. She pays particular attention to how the expectations of science and children’s experiences varied with respect to race and gender. The work includes extensive footnotes, a bibliography, and an index, which will assist those who wish to research this topic further. This book is an excellent addition to collections in US history, popular culture, educational history, childhood studies, and the history of science.

--C. H. Wixson, Plymouth State University

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; faculty and general readers.