Another one of dime novel publisher Frank Tousey‘s Ten Cent Hand Books has been added to Project Gutenberg, using scans from our Digital Library and volunteer time from Distributed Proofreaders. This latest title is How to Become a Scientist, which covers experiments in pneumatics, mechanics, arithmetic, chemistry and acoustics, with a special section devoted to making fireworks.
Like many other books in this series, the text seems to have been borrowed from other sources without a lot of thought to context — particularly in cases where illustrations are referred to but not included. While the reader of the book would certainly learn how to achieve some interesting (and frequently quite dangerous) effects, the text doesn’t devote much space to theory, or any at all to the scientific method. If it created any young scientists, it did so by sparking curiosity rather than providing much instruction.
The book does acknowledge the hazardous nature of some of its proposed experiments, and justifies them in this way:
We know full well the intense delight taken by boys in risking their limbs or their lives, especially when such risk is accompanied with noise. Boys always have done so, and always will do so in spite of the very best of advice or precautions. As, therefore, it is impossible to keep them from making noises, and endangering themselves, we have, in this article, endeavored to show them how to make as much noise as possible, with as little danger as possible.
If you want to learn more about how science was presented to young readers at the dawn of the 20th century, you can read the full book online (or download it in popular eBook formats) through Project Gutenberg… but please don’t try these experiments at home!
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