Matthew Lavine

Matthew Lavine

Matthew Lavine

Associate Professor and Distance Education Coordinator

Science and Popular Culture, Technology, American West



My work explores the intersection of science and American popular culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. I'm interested in the process by which science became first a topic of polite conversation, then a launching pad for political and literary fantasies, and finally, in the rueful words of a liberal Baptist minister in 1932, "the arbiter of this generation's thought." 
My first book, The First Atomic Age: Scientists, Radiations and the American Public, 1845-1945, is an examination the first half-century of Americans' experiences of radiation and radioactivity. I argue that the intense interest they generated among nonscientists influenced the prestige of science and medicine, and provided the real foundation for post-Hiroshima nuclear culture. My second book project, on which I am currently conducting research, deals with the relationship between scientific authority and adult sexual education in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America.


  • M.A. and Ph.D. in History of Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2008)
  • A.B., Kenyon College (1997) 

Research Interests

  • American nuclear culture
  • Science in 19th and 20th century American sex education
  • The history of science popularization
  • The history of games in American culture
  • The institutional and professional history of bioethics in America


  • The First Atomic Age: Scientists, Radiations and the American Public, 1845-1945 (2013, Palgrave Macmillan). 
  • “‘Something About X Rays for Everyone: Emerging Technologies and Open Communities,” History and Technology (online 13 July 2015; print forthcoming).
  • "The Science of Automatic Precision: The Rise and Fall of Spectro-Chrome Therapy," Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 44:2 (April 2014), 140–177.
  • "The Two Faces of Radium in Early American Nuclear Culture," Bulletin of the History of Chemistry 39:1 (Spring, 2014).
  • "The Early Clinical X-Ray in the United States: Patient Experiences and Public Perceptions," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 67:4 (Oct. 2011).
  • Book reviews for Isis and Exploring Globalization.


  • "From martyrs to menace: The threat of irradiated bodies in Cold War medicine and culture," presentation to the Organization of American Historians annual meeting, April 2014.
  • "'X-Rays… and You:' Art conservatorship as a means to legitimize and humanize x ray technology in the mid-twentieth century," presentation to the History of Science Society annual meeting, November 2013.
  • "'Something's missing in the water!': Consumer technologies as the cause and cure of dissatisfaction with nunicipal water in the early twentieth century," presentation to the Society for the History of Technology annual meeting, October 2013. 
  • "The Radioactive Greening of the Mountain West in the Early Twentieth Century," presentation to the Under Western Skies 2 Conference, Oct. 2012. 
  • Radioactive Earths as Nature Cures in Early Twentieth-Century American Culture,  presentation to the International Society for the History of Medicine, Barcelona, Spain, Sept. 2011.
  • "Spectro-Chrome Therapy and Early American Nuclear Culture," presentation to the Northeast Popular Culture Association, Oct. 2010. 
  • "'These rays that blast and wither but do not consume'": American Physicists' Evolving Rhetoric on Radiation, 1895-1935," presentation to the History of Science Society Annual Meeting, 2009. 
  • "Consumer goods, the science of advertising, and the popular rehabilitation of radioactive substances," paper presented to the Southern History of Science and Technology regional meeting, 2009.
  • "'Radiumac Does Wonders, Contains No Radium': Radon-Infused Water and Early American Nuclear Culture," paper presented to the History of Science Society Annual Meeting, 2007.
  • "Science Fiction and the Fear of Science," invited presentation at the Bakken Museum of Electricity and Life and the Minneapolis Humanities Council, 2006.
  • "Radium Tonics Revisited: The Brief Half-Life of the Eben Byers Story," presentation to the Midwest Junto Conference, 2006
  • "The Post-Mortem Construction of the Iconic Einstein," presentation to the Joint Atlantic Seminar on the History of the Physical Sciences (JASHOPS), 2005.

Courses Taught

  • HI 1073: American History, 1877-present
  • HI 3133: History of U.S. Popular Culture
  • HI 3903: Historiography and Historical Methods
  • HI 4173: U.S. History Since 1945
  • HI 4243/6243: American Life and Thought
  • HI 4253/6253: American Religious History
  • HI 4553: History of Science and Technology I
  • HI 4653: History of Science and Technology II 
  • HI 8990: Science in Science Fiction
  • HI 8873: Graduate Colloquium on the History of Science

Professional Associations

History of Science Society
American Historical Association
International Society for the History of Medicine 
Forum for the History of Science in America
Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association

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