Science Service: Light, Camera, Action

It was in the early decades of the twentieth century, and once photographic illustrations in newspapers and magazines became widespread, that images about the science began to appear with regularity. Interest in science grew as news reports of aeronautical firsts; breakthroughs in astronomy, medicine, and technology; and illustrated articles about archeological finds like the tomb of King Tutankhamun sparked the public’s curiosity and imagination. In 1920, newspaper publisher E. W. Scripps joined with the American Association for the Advancements of Science, National Academy of Sciences, and the National Research Council to establish an organization known as Science Service. Its goal was to popularize science through the mass media and photographs, particularly graphically striking ones, played an increasingly important role in capturing attention and raising public awareness of, and enthusiasm for the sciences. “Drama lurks in every test tube,” an issue of Science News-Letter, a journal sponsored by Science Service claimed in 1927. And how to best visualize science remains a challenge to this day, as photographic images continue to impact research, science education, policy, funding, and advocacy, as much as journalism.