Matthew Lavine

Matthew Lavine


  • History of Science and Technology


  • Associate Professor


  • Science and Popular Culture
  • Technology
  • American West


  • Undergraduate Coordinator
  • Co-Editor of Isis, the Journal of the History of Science Society


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.

My colleague Alix Hui and I are the editors for History of Science Society’s publications, including Isis, Osiris, and the Isis Current Bibliography.

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

    The First Atomic Age: Scientists, Radiations and the American Public, 1845-1945 (2013, Palgrave Macmillan). 

  • "
  • "Disciplinary Identity and Isis," Physis 57:1 (2022). With Alexandra Hui.
  • "'Advanced Marriage Technique': Sex as a Perfectible Skill in Mid-twentieth-century American Marriage Manuals," Journal of Family History 46:4 (2021), 460-482.
  • "'Something About X Rays for Everyone': Emerging Technologies and Open Communities," History and Technology 31:1 (2015), 37–54.
  • "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), 587–625.


  • "Medical expertise in Sexology magazine, 1933-1965,” Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference, September 2017, Kalamazoo, MI

 • “‘Every Physician Must at the Present Time Be a Missionary:’ Physicians and sexual morality in the Progressive Era,” History of Science Society Annual Meeting, November 2016, Atlanta, GA.

 • “From The Art of Love to The Sexually Adequate Male: Marital advice books in the twentieth century and the new concept of sexual expertise,” Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference, September 2015, Kalamazoo, MI.

  • "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.
  • HI 1073: American History, 1877-present
  • HI 3133: History of U.S. Popular Culture
  • HI 3363, American History of Transportation
  • 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

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