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A tale of two cultures

The borders which once divided the scientific from the artistic imagination have been breached-by the scientists. John Carey, a professor of English at Oxford, pays tribute to a new literary genre

By John Carey   November 1995

The writing of popular science has improved immensely in recent decades. Writers such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Feynman, Peter Medawar, Stephen Hawking, Lewis Wolpert and Richard Dawkins have transformed the genre, combining expert knowledge with an urge to be understood which bridges the intelligibility gap to delight and instruct huge readerships. In the process, they have created a new kind of late 20th century literature which demands to be recognised as a separate genre, distinct from the old literary forms, and conveying pleasures and triumphs of its own.

True, these writers had predecessors in…

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