Stereotypes and Caricatures
When you think of a scientist, what do you picture?

You probably will think of someone with wild hair, white lab coat, glasses, beakers filled with bubbling liquids, a loner, someone who is a mad scientist. These are largely the stereotypical traits that people associate with the image of a scientist.

Of course, we all know that these characteristics aren't necessarily true. Yes, some scientists do fit the bill - think of Albert Einstein here. He has the wild hair, the odd personality and sometimes wore the white lab coat. He even had cartoons created about him, showing his "wacky" side.Yet he was one of the most brilliant minds of his time.

Now put yourself in the shoes of someone who lived in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. What do you picture a scientist to be like?

Back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries scientists also faced stereotypes. Caricatures were a large part of life then. These humorous drawings mocked everything from politics to art and even science and medicine.

Click for larger image

The smallpox vaccine, originally prepared from the lesions of people infected with cowpox (a much milder disease contracted from cows), made many people fearful -- of cow-borne disease, of usurping God's will, of the unknown. This 1802 cartoon shows Edward Jenner, the vaccine's discoverer, administering it, as previous vaccine recipients erupt with cow-like features.



Copyright 2002: History 257 - Mount Holyoke College
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